Budget shortfalls — pay raises

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Trouble plagues ambulance department

By Damon Lawrence

Do ambulance workers deserve a raise when their department is in such dire financial straits?

That’s a question county commissioners could have to answer in the coming weeks.

Gloria Wright, director of the ambulance service, has requested a raise of 5 cents an hour for her employees.

Roane County Executive Ron Woody said the request came as a shock to him.

The ambulance department is projected to have just $18,000 when the fiscal year ends June 30.

That’s not enough to keep the department operating.  

The financial situation is so bad that Woody, who took office last September, plans to look into outsourcing the service.

“When you’ve got a department that’s financially suffering, it’s hard to say you’re losing money, we’re going to give you a raise,” Woody said. “I’m having a hard time with that as fiscal agent.”  

According to a proposed resolution, ambulance employees have received step raises in the past.

Who authorized that was a question Woody asked Wright at the Jan. 4 budget committee meeting.  

“I don’t think for the life of us we could find where county commission adopted a resolution that did this,” Woody said.  

“It’s a longevity pay that we believed and still believe that we had a contract with this county for,” Wright said.

“Who entered into that contract?” Woody asked.

“The county commission,” Wright responded.

Woody asked Wright to produce a resolution that says such.

Wright said she would check with Una Coffman, who last served on the commission in 2006.

“All we need to do is see if there’s a resolution passed by the county legislative body,” Woody responded.

Then things got even more confusing.

Commissioner Bobby Collier said the budget committee granted the raises in the past.  

“There was no resolution passed,” Collier said. “It just went to the budget committee. Budget committee increased it at the recommendation of the county executive, and we went from there.”   

This current budget committee voted to send the raise request to the ambulance committee, which meets Thursday at 4:30 p.m.

“It will still have to come back to the budget committee, but will the ambulance committee recommend it?” Woody said.