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By Christa Jennings
Senior Staff Writer
Following a work session and its evening meeting on August 30, the County Commission is now in the process of hiring an emergency medical services director.
During its work session prior to its evening meeting, the commission and County Emergency Management Agency, or EMA, Director Sheldon Hutcherson, who is also chair of the E-911 Board, discussed the county-wide ambulance service to be stationed in Rockford, including personnel staff, hiring employees, pay rate, and more.
Hutcherson emphasized the importance of getting the ball rolling with hiring an EMS director to oversee the ambulance service, stating that things were ahead of schedule and that the ambulance would be delivered within 45 days of that meeting.
Hutcherson told the commission that the average salary for an EMS director is between $75,000 to $80,000 per year. He also reviewed salaries for other various positions with Sylacauga Ambulance to give the commission an idea of salary ranges.
While he acknowledged that it is up to the County Commission, during discussion Hutcherson advised that the county may want to consider not hiring a full-time staff. He said some have expressed interest in part-time work and that this might work better for the county.
During discussion he further stated that the commission needs to “speed up the hiring process” because of being within 45 days of the ambulance delivery.
County attorney John K. Johnson stated that the county would need to advertise that it is taking applications for an EMS director. He also stated that they would have to pay a competitive rate.
In further discussion, Hutcherson said that he thinks the county will be able to staff the ambulance with part-time employees to start with, but that he did think it would behoove the county to have a full-time EMS director.
Commissioner Ronnie Joiner mentioned that the full-time position would mean the director would have insurance and state retirement, as well as vacation time and sick leave, some of which would go into effect after a 6-month probationary period.
In briefly discussing personnel for the ambulance, Hutcherson said that the county’s deputies and some firefighters would be qualified to be ambulance drivers. He said that he did not think the county would have any trouble hiring drivers, as it would be a way for those qualified to make some extra money.
During discussion it was mentioned that the county needs to have the EMS director hired and in place soon, but that it will still be a while before they are ready to start ambulance runs. As such, the discussion focused on the EMS director, with other staffing decisions to be made later.
Following discussion during the work session, during its regular meeting the commission approved authorizing an advertisement for hiring of the EMS director to be run for two weeks in area newspapers. Commissioner Unzell Kelley abstained from voting on the matter.
Commissioner Kelley was absent from the work session, while Commissioner Randall Dunham was absent from both the work session and the meeting.
The deadline to apply for the EMS director position is September 16, and interviews will be scheduled at the next commission meeting. EMA Director Hutcherson recommended that the commission also have a paramedic present for the interviews to ask relative and pertinent questions.
Applications can be picked up at the County Commission office at the county courthouse in Rockford. A resume is required, and eligible applicants must meet some criteria, such as having a minimum of two years as a National Registry/Alabama licensed paramedic, having current evidence of training and certification as an Alabama paramedic, having the knowledge base to start an EMS service from the ground up, and more.
Those interested in applying who may have questions can contact Hutcherson at 256-935-0372.
In other business during its evening meeting, the commission unanimously approved the fiscal year 2023 County Transportation Plan as presented by County Engineer Tad Eason. Eason explained that the plan can be revised at anytime if needed.
The approved plan includes portions of County Road 130 in District 1, County Road 38 in District 2, County Road 30 in District 3, County Road 2 in District 4, and County Road 55 in District 5.
Specifically, the plan includes a total of 1.48 mile project length on County Road 130, 1.21 mile project length on County Road 38, 2.37 miles on County Road 30, 1.56 miles on County Road 2, and 2.63 miles on County Road 55. That would be 9.25 total miles for all projects.
In other business, the commission also discussed the mold issue in the County Extension Office.
Extension Coordinator reviewed information with the commission and attendees. She further reviewed a timeline from 2001 and stated that she is the third Extension agent to endure the situation.
Haynes said that based on the evaluation and report from the industrial hygienist, the basement of the office can no longer be utilized. She asked that the commission “deeply look into” and resolve the issue and to consider the health and safety of her staff and clientele, adding that she has lost two staff members recently who resigned.
“I do not want Coosa County to be added statistically,” Haynes stated. “Coosa County is already the only county without a health department. It does not need to be the only county without an Extension Office.”
The commission briefly discussed the possibility of office space elsewhere that the Extension Office may be able to utilize in order to move out of the current building long term. It was also mentioned that the commission could look into it further once County Administrator Amy Gilliland was able to return to work.
After discussion, the commission said that the Extension Office would continue to operate as it has been, out of the E-911 building, temporarily until a more long-term decision can be made. It was also mentioned that the E-911 building has an empty room that they can use to store as much from the Extension Office basement as it will hold.
Toward the end of discussion on the matter, Commissioner Kelley stated, “Give us some time. We will figure something out.”
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Coosa County Commission will be held at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, September 13.