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County can't pay `going rate' for EMS director

Staff writer

Marion County either can’t afford a qualified EMS director, or it hasn’t found the right one. Few of the applicants, there were upward of 20, meet the level of qualifications the county seeks. One qualified candidate offered to take the position for a salary that was approximately $25,000 more than the previous full-time EMS director, Steve Smith.

“At this point we don’t feel like we can afford what we’d like to have. That’s what’s making the search difficult for us,” Commission Chairman Roger Fleming said.

Search efforts have ramped up in the past week, with the commission conducting several face-to-face interviews with applicants.

The commission had special sessions Oct. 7 at 1 p.m., Thursday at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., and Monday at 1 p.m. regarding the position, presumably to conduct interviews. An additional session was scheduled for 1:15 p.m. Tuesday for discussion, the results of which were not available as of press time.

“They have done interviews and they have done re-interviews, and they’re still just talking about it,” Interim EMS Director JoAnn Knak said.

Knak took over for Smith July 1, at which point the arrangement was for Knak to be a short-term holdover while a replacement was found.

“I told them 60 to 90 (days) when I took it,” she said.

Knak works hourly, and said she only does what she needs to before going home. She signed up to teach an EMT class, however, so she’s committed to at least work with EMS until May, when the class is scheduled to graduate, unless the new hire is a certified instructor to whom Knak can transition responsibility of the class.

Knak said there was no chance she would take on full-time director duties and remove the interim from her title.

While she said she’s anxious for the county to get a new director, she understands their conflict.

“Yes I want them to get someone, but yes I want them to get someone who is qualified, and I also want them to get someone who I trust and who I would like to work for,” she said.

“Yeah, all we’ve got to do is raise taxes and we can pay what the going rate is, but we don’t want to do that either,” Commissioner Dan Holub said. “It’s a tricky situation.”

The offer, which the county turned down, was for “no less than $70,000,” Knak said. Smith’s salary was $45,216. The county also made an offer to an applicant and was refused.

“(We think) that’s the reason why it was turned down, and we can’t hold that against them,” Commissioner Randy Dallke said.

It’s unclear whether the offers were in regard to the same candidate.

Fleming said that committing to a pay raise for one department head could have a “snowball effect.”

“If we start paying X amount of dollars for this position and we have something of equal responsibility, we should be paying for that position, too,” Fleming said. “We have to worry about the whole county and the effect it has on everybody who has a lot of responsibility in their assignments.”

Last modified Oct. 15, 2014

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