Ky. county officials hear appeals for more EMS funding
Pulaski County Fiscal Court officials faced calls for increased pay in order to improve morale and retain EMS personnel
By Christopher Harris
PULASKI COUNTY, Ky. — In what was otherwise a quiet and quick meeting of the Pulaski County Fiscal Court, the most significant discussion revolved around the morale of local EMS personnel — and how to potentially find more money for them.
In the citizens’ comments section of Tuesday’s Fiscal Court meeting, David Sparks, a former paramedic and member of the Somerset-Pulaski County EMS unit’s advisory committee, came to talk about concerns he had regarding how its members are compensated and the state of the roster, which he said is currently down 10 employees.
“We’re losing our paramedics; we’re a training ground for agencies around us,” Sparks told the magistrates and Pulaski County Judge-Executive Marshall Todd. “We’re losing them to agencies around us where they can make more money and less runs.”
A new paramedic hire coming into Pulaski’s EMS squad starts at $16.25 an hour, said Sparks, and an advanced EMT starts at $14 per hour. He noted that several surrounding counties start theirs out at more than $20 an hour, such as Jessamine and Boyle Counties.
“We’re looking at an EMS that’s extremely busy, and is on target to do 13,000 runs by the end of the year,” he said, adding that they average 40 runs in a 24-hour shift.
Sparks urged the court to consider “any and all options” to increase pay for EMS personnel, and specifically suggested creating an ambulance tax district, though he noted it would not be a “popular” option.
“We can’t keep kicking this can down the road; we’ve got to address this,” he said. "... We just need to figure out the solution to this.”
Mark Ranshaw, Fourth District Magistrate, responded to Sparks, saying that he speaks with EMS employees frequently, and agreed that morale is an issue but said it’s about more than pay. He also pointed to the City of Somerset’s role, observing that it manages EMS while the county contributes about $1.4 million to it annually, and that their budget doesn’t currently allow them to put forth any significant amount more.
“The city sets the EMS pay ... We can only help with funds,” said Ranshaw. “It is something that maybe the mayor needs to look at, at how he can fund EMS better.”
Those comments were particularly notable as Somerset Mayor Alan Keck was in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting as part of the audience.
Todd said that he and Keck have discussed the issue together, and said that the problem will “have to be addressed eventually, but we’ll look at all options and see what we can do.”
That wasn’t the only time Keck was mentioned during the meeting. Earlier in the agenda, Todd mentioned having attended task force meetings on Kentucky Senate Bill 141, which pauses city annexations until July of 2024. The bill addresses collection procedures for property taxes.
“They’re studying that for a year to (figure out) how to make it work with city annexation and county property,” said Todd. "... They’ll be done with their study in November, to see how city (and) county government can better work together with occupational tax and fire insurance premium tax.
“This is the first time the counties have had any say-so or any kind of word to get in on (the) discussion with the annexation that takes place,” he added. “I’m very involved with it, and we want to be heard while we have the chance, because they’re going to come out with a decision here in November going forward. ... I know the mayor is sitting here and he’s probably going to oppose it, but I feel like we need to represent the county.”
Pulaski County Attorney Martin Hatfield said that he had been contacted by KACo (Kentucky Association of Counties) on the matter, to learn more about the agreements that local city and county government have, “which embodies a situation ... where city and county governments can work together on that particular issue in a way that’s beneficial to the county as a whole.” He added that the work that local agencies have done in addressing occupational tax distribution is being seen outside the county as “better practices, the way to do business. So kudos to the mayor and the magistrates for doing that.”
In other fiscal court business:
—The court approved having a public hearing to take Rocky Branch Road into the county’s system, and also assigning a couple of magistrates to look at Nicholas Lane and the possibility of removing it from the county’s care.
—A transfer personnel request, moving Tommy Barnett to the county’s solid waste department, was approved.
—The court approved jailer Anthony McCollum’s request to bid out for mobile inmate tracking software, that provides convenient real-time data on an inmate’s location — McCollum said that the jail has a full grant secured for the software’s purchase.
—Pulaski County Public Safety Director Stacy Halcomb told the court that the Nancy Fire Department has requested acceptance of a bid from Southeast Apparatus for $484,745 for a new fire truck, with a delivery date in 18 to 22 months. A bid for a truck for the Haynes Knob Fire Department from Vogelpohl Fire Equipment of $498,052 was also presented, with a delivery date in 870 days. Both bids were approved by the magistrates.