Lawrence council unanimously approves raises for EMS employees

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LAWRENCE, Ind - The battle over raises for paramedics and EMT's came to an end in Lawrence Monday night. The common council unanimously approved a proposal that gives the emergency workers an immediate pay increase.

This, after several city EMTs said they left the department because of low pay, and a plan that would have given Lawrence EMTs an immediate raise was turned down by council members last month.  Some people worried about losing more EMTs, and the effect it could have on emergency response time.

Concerned Lawrence residents filled the council chambers wearing matching t-shirts and carrying signs Monday. Some even posted signs in their yards pushing for change when it comes to the emergency workers' salaries and the shortage in staffing for ambulances.

Right now, Lawrence EMT salaries start at $13.33 an hour. In Indy, the starting pay is $19 an hour, and in Wayne Township, it’s $20 an hour. Lawrence paramedics start at at $15.64 an hour.

The newly approved proposal brings EMT salaries up to $15.33 an hour. Paramedics will make $17.64 per hour.

The proposal that failed last month would’ve given Lawrence EMTs an immediate $2 dollar an hour raise, with the possibility of more next year. Six council members said they had concerns about the long-term sustainability of those raises.  On Monday night, two council members who voted against that measure sponsored a proposal that allows for $4 an hour raises.

"We really thought it was important to work with the administration and come up with a solution that would have an immediate impact on our ability to get some recovery from being down an ambulance and stop the bleeding as it relates to retention of EMS employees," said Lisa Chavis, (D) At-large and co-sponsor of the proposal.

The process of getting the raises delayed due to disagreement among council members.

"It took us about a month and a half," said Tyrell Giles, (D) District 1, who also co-sponsored the proposal.  "But decisions that take time and vetted are the right ones. "

Fire Chief Dino Batalis said he is just glad to see the raises approved.

"I'm thrilled to death that we are moving forward," Batalis said. "It probably should’ve happened a lot sooner."

While the proposal allows for up to a $4 an hour raise, the city controller said a $2 an hour raise is what is sustainable right now.  The $4 raise could be possible in the future.

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