News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, Sep. 5, 2013
AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- Aside from the traffic, things at Aiken County EMS Station 5 are pretty quiet. Next door, the EMS Headquarters building was open as usual on Thursday, but the brand new roughly $400,000 Station 5 was closed yet again.
"I had no idea it was this bad," says Aiken County Councilman Willar Hightower.
On Thursday, News 12 showed Hightower the scheduling data for Station 5 obtained directly from sources on the inside. The source says, according to dispatch data, Station 5 was used just fifteen times in June, nine times in July, and in August, just four times.
"I don't get into the day-to-day operations, but I'm sure there's a good reason why they closed that particular station," says Hightower.
Aiken County Administrator Clay Killian says there is a reason. Aiken Rescue squad, a private service, is just a football field length away on Kershaw Street. He says Aiken Rescue covers for Station 5, since the county is short-staffed right now. That way, Aiken County units can cover more rural areas like Windsor and Wagener, Killian says.
"As long as we're getting the coverage," says Hightower. "I haven't heard that we're late at any scenes. I haven't heard that we've had any other problems that relates to not having anybody at that station."
But Hightower says the county needs to address low-pay and other problems that are causing the turnover rate of 34% at Aiken County EMS.
"I would guess that in a good operation it would be more like 10%," Hightower says.
Killian says the county's turnover is roughly the national average, but he admits county workers are currently being paid at 2008 levels.
Killian says the county may need to hire an outsider to take a second look at what EMS workers should be paid, but he says that's a discussion he'll have with the Aiken County Council first.
Station 5, meanwhile, has stirred controversy before. When the county starting building the new EMS Headquarters building next door a couple years ago, council decided to put that substation there too.
As the county later found out, the headquarters building, an old Coca-Cola bottling plant, didn't meet certain earthquake standards, so first responders couldn't dwell inside of it, so the county used additional money to build substation next door separately.
Again, Killian says the cost of building Station 5 was close to $400,000 from taxpayers.
Killlian says the county is aware of the issues with Aiken County EMS, and he says they hope to more regularly staff Station 5 in the near future.