By Amanda Ensinger
The Prairie Township trustees agreed to pay a severance for the Prairie Township Fire Department dispatchers who were recently laid off.
At a recent meeting, the trustees unanimously approved giving the three full-time dispatchers a severance from Dec. 27, 2017 through March 25, 2018.
“This severance will be a continuation of their wages, retirement and insurance and they will receive their pay every two weeks like they currently do,” said Prairie Township Fire Chief Chris Synder. “In return, they must stay available to us through this period anytime for anything. If we call, they have to be available.”
According to Synder, while they are not sure what they may need the dispatchers for, since they are still paying their regular salary, this is a requirement of the severance. If the dispatchers get a new full-time job their severance will end.
“Their wages for this will be a continuation of their 2017 rates, they will not be paid more in 2018,” he said. “They also will not earn sick or vacation leave for 2018.”
While the dispatchers will get no vacation payout for their 2017 vacation time, they will get a payout for the sick time they have not used in 2017. According to Synder, that payout would occur when their employment with the township ends.
“They will get this when they get a new job or when the severance period ends,” Snyder said.
The township completed the transfer of its dispatching services from within the township to Grove City, resulting in the laying off of these employees. Township officials cited the need to do this because of coverage, staffing and technology issues they couldn’t financially afford to resolve.
“We were behind the eight ball,” said Prairie Township Assistant Fire Chief Allen Scott. “A lot needed to be accomplished and we didn’t have the resources to do it. This was our only option.”
The transfer of services will save the department money. The department will pay Grove City $211,000 a year to provide dispatching services to the township. Previously, it cost the township $331,000 a year to provide its own dispatching services.
While this decision was in the best interest of the township, according to Synder the department wanted to do something to take care of those who have dedicated years of service to the township.
“The employees getting this severance are long-term employees who have worked between 15-31 years for the township,” he said. “They have been extremely dedicated to the township and we took that service into consideration when deciding to offer them this. It wasn’t their choice to end their careers.”
In other news, the board unanimously approved a 4 percent pay increase for all 32 township part-time firefighters/EMS employees.
“Our part-time fire department employees provide an invaluable service to the township and play a huge role in our day-to-day staffing,” Synder said. “They help us fill space when a full-time fire department employee is on vacation or sick and ensure we have proper staffing at all times.”
Synder also said that the department looks at the pay of other part-time firefighters in the central Ohio and this pay increase allows them to stay in the middle of the hourly rates in the region. This also allows them to retain part-time employees and recruit new ones.