Pulaski County EMS Staff Put on County Salary Matrix, Despite Opposition

Some members of Pulaski County’s EMS staff are getting significant pay raises, following a salary matrix update approved by the county council Monday. That was in spite of some harsh criticism from EMS Director Bryan Corn. “Before you vote, I just want to ask you guys, each and every one of you, do you guys fully understand and are you guys fully okay with what’s going to happen when you do this?” he asked council members.

The measure puts EMS staff on the longevity-based salary matrix that’s used by most other county departments. Corn’s concern was what that means for part-time pay rates. By joining the matrix, part-time EMS staff will now be paid at least $14 an hour, but Corn pointed out that full-time EMTs are only paid $11.11. Even full-time medics only get $15.15 an hour.

Corn felt the change sent the wrong message to all of his full-time staff members. “You guys do what you guys got to do,” he told the council, “and then I guess when someone calls 911 and there’s nobody to show up, I guess the commissioners and myself will just have to figure out where we’re going to go from there.”

Council member Ken Boswell stressed that the change would only apply to 2018, and that it would be revisited before next year’s budget takes effect. “Right now, we don’t have anything for the auditor to follow, really, for our pay scales and how we’re doing,” he explained. “So we need something in place. We know this is a fluid document. It’s going to be one that’s going to be worked on.”

But the possibility that wages would be adjusted now and then readjusted later drew concerns from council member Mike Tiede. “Well, I guarantee if we give somebody $14 an hour and we come back two days later and say, ‘Oh, we’re only going to give you $13,’ the people just don’t like that,” Tiede said.

One of Corn’s staff members also voiced opposition to the pay schedule. “It was said before, when we were at our lowest staff, that we were playing God on what side of the county we were putting them on,” she said. “But I tell you what, you put this matrix in place, you guys are going to be playing God. It will be the biggest mistake.”

In the end, the county council approved the updated salary matrix retroactive to June 11, with Tiede opposing.