Washington County board OKs raises for ambulance services, dispatchers

Retired dispatcher calls out sheriff, says pay is ‘not the issue’

The Washington County Board approved increases in pay for county emergency personnel and dispatchers during its regular monthly meeting Tuesday night.

The board unanimously passed three items that included a $2.50 per hour premium to be added to current and newly hired paramedics and emergency medical technicians. Dispatchers who have not completed training will receive an 18-cent raise, and those who have finished are to receive a $2.18 increase per hour.

“With the COVID situation and the course of things in general, the county is having a very difficult time keeping employees in public departments,” Vice Chairman and Finance Committee Gary Suedemeyer said.

Ambulance Committee Chair Vic Shubert indicated that the move was “necessary,” adding that the county lost three paramedics in July alone.

“In order to be comparable, we needed to make this change,” he said.

Ambulance Services Administrator John Felchilia commended the board on its decision.

“Doing this as long as I have, I have not seen anything like this coming together like we did to work out the problems we were having,” Felchilia said.

During the public comment section of the meeting, retired dispatcher Patti Chwasczinski brought up the issue again. She asked Sheriff Len Campbell if he had ever referred to her as a “hostile employee, and when he denied the allegation, she asked him again.

“I’m sorry I’ve never called anybody a liar in a very long time,” Chwasczinski said. “I don’t believe you.”

“That’s your privilege,” Campbell said.

Chwasczinski, who worked for the county for 18 years before retiring in May, said she believes the recent problems Washington County has had in retaining dispatchers has little to do with salary. 

“I love the county. I still love the county,” she said. “But pay is not the issue.”

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