Left Out in the Cold

In response to an article posted on April 22, “County Weighs Salaries,” and for the County’s budget being finalized, I applaud the County Council for improving the pay of our County employees to a level to compete with neighboring counties. I am sure that those employees will be grateful for the increase in pay. I noticed that one thing in the article states that the increases in pay will bring these listed employees to a minimum in comparison to the neighboring counties, especially for these jobs that are described as safety sensitive.

Why are we trying for bottom-of-the-barrel pay for these employees who put their lives on the line? This county should be trying to entice the brightest and best that they can to fill the jobs at the correctional facility, in law enforcement and with EMS. We are never going to get the best law enforcement or EMTs/paramedics if we are just trying to pay minimums.

I had the opportunity to speak with several of these members of our public safety, and they all say the same thing: pay is a major problem. I was actually shocked when I spoke to a paramedic to learn that they were not even included in the pay raises minus the 2 percent mandated by state. The individual I spoke to said that Fairfield County EMS struggles to find quality paramedics because the pay is lower than most of the surrounding counties. They told me that there are numerous times they would offer a job to a perspective employee, but when the pay is announced, they do not accept the job and seek employment elsewhere. They also said that there have been at least four paramedics that have left Fairfield EMS in the last year to seek employment at other counties that have a remarkably higher pay rate.

Without giving details to prevent this person from getting in trouble, when asked what that person’s hourly pay was, I was embarrassed to be a taxpayer. My son, who works fast food in Blythewood, makes 25 cents an hour less than someone who is entrusted with saving my life should it come to it, and who is responsible for so much and at risk of disease, assault or death just from the nature of the job.

We as a county should be trying to make the pay of our emergency workers the best in the area. So much money is wasted on needless things, when it could be put to good use and bringing the best law enforcement, paramedics, EMTs and correctional officers we can to the county. No one knows the future, but when it comes down to it I want someone there for me that is the best, not just a person that had to be hired to fill a spot because no one else applied.

Jerry Smithers