County Approves Rescue Squad Perks

FAIRFIELD – It took a 4-3 vote and the defeat of a motion to table, but Monday night County Council gave the OK to County Administrator Phil Hinely’s plan to include rescue squad workers in the county’s expense reimbursement program.

Council member Carolyn Robinson (District 2) led the push to table the matter until Council’s Jan. 28 meeting. Robinson said she would like to see an economic impact report on adding the rescue squad to a program that already includes firefighters, details of where the money would come from and if the incentives represented an additional tax on Fairfield County citizens.

Hinely said there was no additional taxation associated with the program.

“There is no economic impact,” Hinely said. “The money we’re already setting aside to give these expense reimbursements (to firefighters), it will come out of this. This just gives us a formal program to do it. There is money in the budget to add the rescue squads, which is what we’re doing here. We’ve already done the fire departments. Even at that, there was no increase to the budget. And with the rescue squad, it’s really a minimal cost.”

Call pay for a Department of Transportation (DOT) certified first responder is $15. For a Status 2 or non-certified responder, $10. Training pay is $15, while business meetings earn a responder $5. The maximum amount paid in one calendar month is $250. This is the same call pay allotted to firefighters.

In addition, a rescue squad worker may qualify for an additional $100 annually, if he or she meets a set of training requirements. Firefighters can earn an additional $200 annually by meeting a similar set of requirements. Longevity will also earn rescue squad workers an additional $50 annually (5-9 years of honorable service), $100 (10-14 years), $125 (15-19 years) or $150 (20 or more years). Firefighters already qualify for the same longevity scale.

With emphasis placed on training and certification, Robinson said the payments could indeed have an economic impact on the county.

“If everyone gets their certifications and moves up, I have no idea how many people we’re talking about,” Robinson said. “It could have an economic impact on our budget and I would like to see that. Any time money is discussed, an economic impact needs to come with it. It’s getting to the place that we are using a lot of our fund balance and other things and we just need to always know what kind of money we’re talking about.”

Barkley Ramsey, Chief of the Fairfield County Rescue Squad, said there are currently 30 active volunteers on the squad. More than half of them, he said, are also firefighters, and are thus already receiving the reimbursements. Ramsey said capping membership at 35 members was also under consideration.

“So we’re talking about an impact of about 15 folks,” Council Chairman David Ferguson (District 5) noted. “And we did the incentive at budget time with the firemen.”

Hinely said he was not seeking a formal vote by Council on the matter, but only their approval to proceed with the formula.

“When Council votes on something, then if later on it needs to be changed it has to come back and go through the whole process,” Hinely said. “This is already in the budget, but not in this form. I don’t foresee this going up anytime soon. Actually there’s a cap on each one of these. No matter how many trainings you get or anything else, you only get a certain amount a month. Training is what the council trying to get people to do, and this is a lot cheaper than paying firemen.”

But Robinson objected.

“It’s getting to the place where we have so many things thrown at us and we never have an opportunity to sit and discuss it, it goes out of here and we’re expected to approve it without knowing the nuts and the bolts of anything,” she said. “At some point the rest of us have to have the opportunity of having leadership and understanding in these things, because every time we turn around it’s something else that’s thrown at us that we just have no input on. If that’s the case, then why am I sitting here? Why was I elected? I am constantly having things thrown at me, at every meeting, and this needs to cease so that we all feel that we have an impact in this. To say that we shouldn’t vote on it – it’s part of the budget, so we do need to vote on it. I don’t know where ya’ll are coming from, but this is the legislative process. You don’t continually do business without a motion and a second to either accept or adopt.”

Robinson then moved to table the matter until Council’s next meeting. David Brown (District 7) seconded the motion. Councilman Kamau Marcharia (District 4) joined Robinson and Brown in voting to table. Ferguson, Vice Chairman Dwayne Perry (District 1) and Mary Lynn Kinley (District 6) rejected the move.

Kinley then moved to accept Hinely’s proposal. Perry seconded and the votes fell out along the same lines.