2017-02-09 / Life in Leelanau

Township prepares to offer more emergency services; opens contract

Paramedic salaries set at $43,000
By Patti Brandt Burgess
Of The Enterprise staff

Leelanau Township Emergency Services (LTES) is gearing up to begin offering Advanced Life Support (ALS) services starting April 1.

But first the department will need to hire three paramedics — for a total of five — who must be cross-trained as firefighters.

The department, in fact, will no longer hire responders who are not already firefighters, said Doug Scripps, township supervisor.

The Leelanau department now contracts with the Suttons Bay- Bingham Department for ALS services. Being able to deliver the services itself will take several minutes off response times — a difference that can save lives.

The union contract was recently reopened to set a salary for paramedics, with a base amount of $43,000 per year negotiated in a recent closed Leelanau Township Board session that lasted about one hour.

The salary was then approved unanimously by the board in open session.

Scripps said the township will likely begin advertising for the new positions after the Feb. 14 regular board meeting.

LTES organized as a bargaining unit of the International Association of Fire Fighters about a year ago, with the initial contract ratified in April.

The contract, which expires in 2018, was ratified with the stipulation that it would be re-opened if a millage to support ALS was approved, township officials said. That 0.5-mill property tax was approved by voters in August, with the tax collected in December.

At the time it was approved, the department did not have any paramedics on board.

It now has two — Tyler Vandemark, who was hired in June, and Jeff Hester, who is also the union president. Both are also firefighter trained.

Neither has yet used their advanced paramedic skills in Leelanau Township, though Vandemark worked as a paramedic in Owosso for several years before moving to Leelanau Township.

Hester said the department is hoping to have three more paramedics in place by April 1, but said it’s a challenge attracting qualified people to this area.

“We’re competing with downstate,” Hester said.

Hester has been with the department for seven years. He recently completed paramedic training and passed his licensure exams.

Hester said even departments downstate are having trouble finding paramedics. For not much more schooling, a paramedic can train as a registered nurse and make a lot more money, he said.

“So you’re looking at that draw,” he said.

And there are other issues, he said.

“You have to be able to provide housing for people and I think that’s some of our problem,” Hester said. “Wages may be comparable, but the cost of living is higher. A lot of that factors in.”

Under the contract, three officer posts will be created — one captain and two lieutenants. LTES is staffed 24/7, and each officer will head up a three-person crew. Those posts, which are expected to go into effect on April 1, also come with a pay raise.

The captain post comes with an 8 percent increase; the two lieutenants will be paid 4 percent more.

The captain will be in charge of dayto day operations of the department such as doing the paperwork, ordering supplies and making sure all shifts are covered.

“There’s a lot of responsibility with it,” Hester said.

There are currently six employees on staff, in addition to Hugh Cook, fire chief.

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