By RON AIKEN
After several investigative pieces earlier this year by Quorum that only recently have gained local media attention — including breaking the initial story back in April of the serious life-threatening issues within Richland County’s EMS program and the story of former Richland County Administrator Kevin Bronson’s incendiary remarks to EMS workers that led to his resignation — earlier today Richland County sent out the following release addressing at least one critical EMS need, better salaries, but has yet to acknowledge its own wasteful spending on new ambulances that sit covered in weeds or the major personnel shortage of EMS workers to man them.
Following is the release:
Pay Increases Scheduled for EMS, Detention Center Personnel
Additional strategic initiatives launched to attract, retain qualified County workforce
(RICHLAND PIO) — Following a nearly yearlong review by the Richland County Administrator’s Office, the salaries of some Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center employees will increase by 5 percent effective Dec. 1 – an outcome of last year’s County Council Priority Setting Session.
About $2 million to cover pay increases and accompanying benefits for more than 290 employees will be absorbed into the current approved fiscal year 2018 budget. The salary adjustments for these groups of employees – 147 paramedics, senior paramedics, paramedic crew leaders and emergency medical technicians and 148 detention center officers – come ahead of the completion of an ongoing, more comprehensive class and compensation study. This study, expected to be complete in April 2018, examines the salaries of the County’s entire workforce.
Councilmembers made it clear that employees are a priority.
“With the adoption of Richland County’s first biennium budget, County Council essentially implemented several initiatives to improve the lives of citizens and employees,” said Council Chair Joyce Dickerson. “I fully support the service of all employees, including our public safety employees in EMS and the detention center. These workers, like our law enforcement officers and firefighters, put their lives on the line for us each day to keep the community safe.”
In 2015, Council approved salary increases for law enforcement and fire personnel that went into effect July 1 of that year. The strategy put forth in the current budget is intended to ensure the salaries of frontline public safety employees remain competitive.
In addition to raises for EMS personnel and detention center officers, starting salaries for new hires in those fields will increase by 10 percent. This increase follows months of meetings and fiscal analysis that began in 2016.
During the September 2016 Council Priority Setting Session, Councilmembers established and set forth their expectations, with compensation just one of several issues they wanted addressed by the County Administrator.
“Richland County’s salaries have been neither competitive nor kept pace with the Midlands regional labor market conditions,” said County Administrator Gerald Seals, who emphasized that salaries and other factors have affected the County’s recruitment and retention efforts.
The Administrator has worked closely with County Council, which signed off on several projects to help recruit and retain employees, including:
· Approval of a 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment for County employees in the new two-year budget cycle, which began July 1, 2017.
· Approval of a measure to absorb the out-of-pocket premium cost increases for dependent healthcare coverage that affected about 500 County employees.
Richland County also will implement a new program to cover tuition at local higher education institutions for students in the emergency medical services field who commit to working at the County. Details of the program have not been finalized.
“Staff research shows us that the issue of employee compensation has not been fully addressed for years, but the class and compensation study will look at overall compensation, recruitment and retention efforts,” Dickerson said. “My hope is that this study will go a long way in ensuring Richland County has and keeps the best and the brightest workforce to effectively serve our citizens.”