By Carol Vaughn —
The Accomack County Board of Supervisors voted Wednesday to increase pay for Department of Public Safety first responders, following recommendations made last month by Director of Public Safety Charles R. Pruitt.
Supervisor Donald L. Hart Jr. made two motions related to first responder compensation, both of which the board approved unanimously.
The first vote was to use part of $5 million in the county EMS fund to immediately increase pay by $5,000 for advanced life support providers and by $10,000 for paramedics, which will cost an estimated $156,000, according to Pruitt.
In a second vote, the board approved having DPS first responders’ pay follow the same matrix as the Sheriff’s Office, which will cost around $256,000, according to Pruitt.
The votes were met with applause from first responders in the audience.
In a related vote, on a motion made by Supervisor Ron Wolff, the board instructed staff to investigate a salary study for all county positions.
The votes came after Accomack County Administrator Mike Mason had begun a presentation about compensation challenges for the county workforce, but before he got to finish the presentation.
Mason noted the DPS was the focus of a targeted pay raise split over two years, fiscal years 2022 and 2023, but said more was needed.
“We know we have a problem with retaining folks,” Mason said.
Still, he said compensation challenges are “county-wide; it is organization-wide.”
He said the position with the highest turnover in the ounty is convenience center attendant.
In the past two years, the two positions that have been open the longest and the most difficult to fill are planner and network administrator.
He also noted 12 employees will require pay increases before Jan. 1 to meet the new required minimum wage of $12 per hour.
Additionally, Mason said 41 county employees are paid hourly rates that do not meet the living wage for one adult with no children. That rate for Accomack is $14.95, he said.
Before Mason and Human Resources Director Kathy Carmody could finish the presentation, Hart said it did not “have to do with” the agenda item, “Follow up on Board’s Request to Discuss DPS compensation.”
“I made a motion (last month) to focus on DPS,” he said.
Supervisor Robert Crockett noted the funds that pay for DPS first responders come from a separate EMS tax, which goes into a separate fund from that used to pay for other county employees.
After additional discussion, Hart made the two motions that were approved.
In related action, the board voted, on a motion made by Crockett, to request staff to prepare an ordinance, to be considered at the September meeting, which would allow for reduction of personal property tax on one vehicle per volunteer first responder. The reduction hopefully will be an incentive to volunteers.