Some proposed changes to one county's ambulance service had many people sounding the alarm Tuesday night. Tensions between emergency workers and Powell County leaders have been growing lately, and Tuesday night they came to a head during a fiscal court meeting.
One by one, employees of the ambulance service and members of the community came forward to express their concerns over potential changes to save money.
"I would ask you to not fool around with our health safety in this community," one man told the court.
"Seems like it's always the ambulance service that comes under attack," another said.
"I think they'd almost make more money going to McDonald's to work," part-time paramedic David Ramsey said, "and some of the paramedics would be almost pretty close to the poverty level." David Ramsey says ambulance service employees are already stretched thin, and he worries about future efforts to cut costs. "Most everybody here has to work three to four jobs just to make ends meet."
Judge-Executive James Anderson plans to make scheduling changes for the ambulance service starting next month in an effort to improve efficiency, but he insists much of the concern he heard was premature. "There have been rumors of slashing salaries," Anderson said, "At this point that's totally a rumor too."
The head of the ambulance service says the changes could be an improvement for the department's 10 full-time employees, but part-time employees could see fewer work hours. "It's taxpayer money," Anderson told the crowd, "so we've got to ensure that hopefully
we can have the best of both worlds: have a sound ambulance service as well as guarantee we're putting the taxpayer money to the best use possible."
One employee of the ambulance service suggested that members of the fiscal court spend a 24-hour shift with emergency workers to get a better sense of what they do. Judge Executive James Anderson said he would consider it.