By NANCY TULLIS
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
EAST PALESTINE -- City paramedics and emergency medical technicians will continue to work on a part-time, on-call basis, because voters defeated a city income tax increase.
"I can't believe it went down," a stunned Mayor Raymond Hull said Tuesday.
Hull said having paramedics on staff full-time at Clark and Main street stations would mean a lot to residents, especially the elderly.
Saves time: Medics sought the tax increase to fund 24-hour on-station EMS staffing. Having full-time paramedics on duty would save valuable time, because three area hospitals are at least 20 minutes away, they said.
Firefighters and medics are volunteers. Medics are on call 24 hours a day but do not staff the fire stations. They receive payment only for the time they are responding to an emergency.
"The people didn't want it," said Fire Chief Merle Stewart. "We didn't just lose by a little bit. It went down big."
Losing EMTs: Firefighters and medics said staffing EMS full-time would be a good idea because over the past few years the department has routinely lost EMTs and medics to full-time departments and private ambulance companies.
Working full-time, EMTs and medics receive better pay for a more structured schedule, they said. Full-time EMS also would improve coverage for residents and firefighters during fire runs and more stand-by coverage, such as during high school football games and community events, they said.
Firefighters said they've seen good medics come and go after only a year or two in the city because they are called out so frequently, they quickly burn out.
Connie Robinson, city finance director, said increasing the city income tax from 1 percent to 11/2 percent would have generated an additional $450,000 annually.