The Dawson County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to discuss a proposal this week that would raise the salaries of local paramedics — a move that officials say is crucial to improving the recruitment and retention of local emergency medical responders.
At the Dawson County Board of Commissioners meeting on Thursday, April 1, Dawson County Fire Chief and EMA Director Danny Thompson shared that the county has lost three experienced paramedics over the last several months to neighboring counties with higher paramedic salaries.
Thompson called the loss of these paramedics and the trouble that Dawson County has had recruiting potential paramedic candidates a “vicious cycle” which has lasting effects on the county’s budget and on public safety.
“This is a national issue, but you are in it at a local level because we’re in a very competitive market out there,” Thompson said to the board. “To be able to keep and retain our people, we’ve got to be competitive.”
Dawson County pays firefighter/paramedics only $16.27 per hour, nearly $3 less per hour than the fire department in neighboring Lumpkin County, and much less than another neighbor, Hall County, which recently raised its paramedic pay to more than $22 per hour and awarded medical workers a hefty bonus.
At the upcoming meeting on April 15, the board of commissioners will reconsider Thompson’s proposal to add $15,000 to the Dawson County EMS Training Budget, which would incentivize potential applicants and provide grants for current county employees to attend paramedic training schools.
The board will also consider multiple options proposed by Thompson to raise the base pay for Dawson County paramedics.
In addition to the proposal on paramedic salaries, the board will also consider purchasing a new ambulance, based on another presentation given by Thompson at the April 1 meeting.
At that meeting, Thompson said that the county currently has 5 ambulances, all of which are aging and beginning to see increased annual maintenance costs.
With the year-long turnaround needed to procure a new ambulance, Thompson said that the board needs to think about what the county will need several years down the line and plan accordingly.
“So if you give me the thumbs up today to move forward with getting this ordered, we’re not going to see that med unit until this time next year,” he said. “So we’re still going to have to try to keep our fleet of 5 going, we’re still going to have those maintenance costs.”
Thompson said that the cost of the new ambulance will be offset by impact fees, but they will still need about $155,000 to pay for the vehicle when they receive it next year.
Presentation of ambulance billing ordinance and policy change.
Presentation of request to accept FY 2021 Georgia Trauma Commission EMS Trauma Related Equipment Grant.
Presentation of FY 2021 Legacy Link Contract Addendum No. 2.
Presentation of request to use Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax VI Overage
A public hearing on the Broadband Ready Community Ordinance.
A discussion of special tax districts.
Rezoning requests for ZA 21-04, ZA 21-05, ZA 21-06.
Consideration of intergovernmental agreement between the city of Dawsonville and Dawson County concerning trail infrastructure for pedestrian access between Main Street Park and the Dawson County library.
Reappointment of Don Cargill to the Dawson County Library Board.
Appointment of David Yenerall to the Dawson County Library Board.