Cottage Grove budget would bulk up emergency staffingAmong the city of Cottage Grove’s proposed 2013 spending increases is a public safety measure approved in principle by the City Council last month that officials say will help improve already better-than-average response times to overnight medical emergencies.
Among the city of Cottage Grove’s proposed 2013 spending increases is a public safety measure approved in principle by the City Council last month that officials say will help improve already better-than-average response times to overnight medical emergencies.
Included in the Public Safety Department’s proposed 2013 budget — presented to the council last week — is a plan to expand part-time emergency medical staffing to overnight hours. The expansion of on-duty staff, called a duty crew, is aimed at lessening the department’s reliance on on-call first responders.
Staffed largely by part-timers and volunteers, Cottage Grove’s fire and EMT system has been stretched by a call volume that has increased by roughly 10 to 12 percent each year in recent years, said Wes Halvorsen, the city’s EMT Director. The department responded to 2,300 medical calls for service in 2011.
One medic and two firefighter medics would be on duty at the city’s main fire station 24-hours-a-day under the plan, cutting response time — especially during overnight hours — by reducing the number of times on-call personnel are called from home.
“With the duty crew, we’re really moving towards a scheduled department,” Public Safety Director Craig Woolery said. “This is a huge transition.”
More duty crew staffing overnight means the city’s paramedic-trained police officers can be freed from responding to an increasingly heavy number of medical calls handled by Cottage Grove’s first responders.
“There’s not a lot of proactive, going out and finding the bad guys when you know you’re down to two or three officers on the street,” said Deputy Public Safety Director Greg Rinzel, who oversees the department’s patrol division.
The expansion of the duty crew means police officers will “be the bench team” to back up medical first-responders, Woolery said.
Council members last month also OK’d an hourly pay rate bump for part-time fire and EMT staff. By next year, firefighters and emergency medical staff will earn $13 an hour, up from the $11 per hour they were paid before the council decision last month.
City officials say the new pay rate is in line with the metro average.