Riley County commissioners approved the stipend program for the county volunteer first responders and firefighters on Monday.

The program will compensate volunteers who respond to calls in order to recruit more people. This came up since the first responders were unable to respond to 261 calls last year in northern county.  These calls still received ambulance care.

Emergency Management Director and District 1 Fire Chief Pat Collins brought this issue up last week with two other options.  They included a full time employee and a hybrid of both plans.

Collins says part of the reason for the stipend is to compensate the amount of money volunteers spend to get certified and that they also have other jobs.

“This will reimburse them for the gas or use of their personal vehicle while driving to scene.  It will also cover the station officer who files the report,” said Collins.

Collins wanted the program to start in June, but County Human Resource Manager Cindy Volanti says there are some issues with that.  She says they would need to put all volunteers on payroll which would not be enough time.  The program was then recommended to begin in September.

Commission Chairman Ron Wells opened the floor to any of the volunteers in the audience to speak on the program.  Zeandale First Responder Elizabeth McQuade says while the compensation isn’t a lot, it will still help with stuff like gas and missing work.  McQuade is employed full time with Kansas State University and has to clock out whenever she responds to a call.  She says any kind of compensation will help.

Collins’ plan also involved hiring a full time employee to patrol the northern part of the county.  This would have an estimated cost of $41,000 a year.  However, Commissioner Marvin Rodriguez didn’t really like that idea.  He says he is leaning towards the stipend program heavily, but not to bring on a full time employee.

Collins says he will return during budget talks with a budget presentation for a full time employee with a better cost estimation.

The commissioners approved stipend program to begin in September of this year.  The will compensate firefighters $15 per call and EMTs will be payed $25 per call.

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