News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014
AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WRDW) -- For Chris Cady, a volunteer firefighter and first responder with Couchton Fire Rescue, time is of the essence.
"Aiken Regional can certainly handle small incidents, but any trauma has to go to either Augusta or Columbia," says Cady.
But lately, Cady has noticed a not-so-good trend. He said Aiken County EMS response times are becoming longer.
"What we would really love to see is some consistency," he said. "It's not as close-knit coverage as it used to be."
A News 12 investigation examined problems at Aiken County EMS last year. We discovered one out of three EMS employees left or quit for a number of reasons. One big problem is pay.
"I wouldn't want to say it's across the board that we're behind, but we haven't moved our pay ranges since 2007," said Aiken County Administrator Clay Killian.
Killian says pay, along with potential issue with management, needs to be addressed. However, Killian says he is satisfied with current EMS facilities, after a number of recent ribbon-cuttings.
"We need to take a look at everything," says Councilman Andrew Siders. "We certainly need to take a look at [pay]."
As Aiken County begins to talk budget, County Administrator Killian says salaries may need a boost to avoid more turnover. Because of the short-staffing, the county is forced to close one or two EMS stations on a daily basis. However, Killian says the closures are normally covered by a number of private ambulance services.
"They're overloaded," Cady says of Aiken County EMS. "The ambulance service here does not have enough personnel to keep those stations open."
"You say this isn't about reinventing the wheel -- it's about money?" asks News 12 reporter Chad Mills.
"It's money, that's right," answers Cady. "And, of course, as citizens we do not like to pay taxes. We don't want to pay anymore than we have to pay, but the quality of life is worth a little more tax money."
Killian says the county is working toward staffing all 10 of their stations, however, nearby departments that pay better often pull good candidates away.
Killian says the problem is bigger than EMS. He says the Aiken County Sheriff's Office is having trouble retaining deputies. Additionally, he says pay is so low for appraisers, they've had trouble hiring those too.
Killian will meet with County Council members and other department heads on Friday for the council's annual budget retreat.
This event will take place at Aiken Electric Cooperative located at 2790 Wagener Road. The meeting is scheduled from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
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