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EMS Department receives payout

By Katharine Calabro - kcalabro@ftimes.com

County Commissioners decided to pay out the remaining vacation time for the EMS Department only for the remainder of 2018.

The request came directly from EMS Director Greg Miller, who reported the department is in a unique situation regarding personnel. Currently, the department is pulling employees from 911 and the transfer side to work all hours.

Miller said paying out the remaining vacation time saves the county about $8,000, as opposed to the county paying employees overtime.

“It’s not something we are looking to do every year, but we are kind of in a unique situation,” he said. “We are pulling people that do 911 transfers and work at Mulberry. We just don’t have an overabundance of personnel.”

Human Resources Consultant Dennis Dunlap, who has been putting together the county employee handbook since 2003, said the request is something that hasn’t been done before, to his knowledge.

“In our handbook we have it in all our sections that vacation for the year is on a use-it-or-lose-it basis,” he said. “We do not pay out vacation at the end of the year for any unused vacation.”

Though the situation is unique, Commissioner Steve Woods said in this department, specifically first responders, positions can’t be short-handed. Unlike other offices, he said EMS can’t run with only a few people while someone is on vacation.

Before voting ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ a concern among commissioners was how the situation would be dealt with in the future. Miller said the department is looking to implement giving employees set days similar to what other agencies do to plan vacation time far in advance, perhaps the entire year.

The idea came from a manual which was created in 2015 by Clinton County EMS, but was never carried forward. Miller said the new procedure will fill in for both vacation and personal time. He said vacation time will be pulled by seniority and, through this, employees would pick vacation up to 28 hours at a time.

“They can start asking for vacation in January and pick for the entire year, so we are not doing that two to three weeks in advance and put us in a shortage,” Miller said.

The new manual also states there will be one medic and one EMT available to be off at the same time, so there won’t be multiple positions open. Miller said currently the department only has full-time positions, because part-timers are filling those roles.

Miller hopes this problem becomes settled and full-time positions become filled when the new EMS headquarters are complete. He hopes this draws more interest and sends people his way.

“If this is something that the commissioners chose not to do, we will continue to pay that at the overtime rate when they take vacation,” Miller said. “My fear was that we would get in a situation of being short personnel at one station or the other.”

The handbook change for EMS with guidelines provided for commissioners will go into effect starting the first of the year. Commissioners also approved the request to fund vacation hours for the EMS department during county commissioner’s monday meeting.

Although approved, Commissioner Scott Shoemaker encourages those employees who have not taken their vacation to at least take a day, regardless of the cost.

“I know it’ll cost us a little bit more money but we get that time off for a reason,” he said.