Facing shortage, Shandaken increases paramedic pay

The Shandaken town board voted on February 4 to raise the wages of paramedics in the hope of attracting more employees to the ambulance service. The board also approved upgrades to the ambulance office located on Ava Maria Road in Phoenicia, where employees are housed while on duty. Both votes were unanimous, with board member Faye Storms absent.

At $17.80 per hour, Shandaken’s rate of pay for paramedics is significantly lower than in surrounding towns. Woodstock recently advertised for a paramedic at a rate of over $25 per hour, noted town supervisor Rob Stanley. If the town is able to hire two new full-time paramedics by raising Shandaken’s base pay rate by $1.50 per hour to $19.30, the cost will be offset by the reduction in overtime currently being paid to staff. Chief Richard Mullerleile pointed out that paramedic certification is a two-year college degree requiring thousands of hours of initial and continuing education training and is the highest level of education required by any emergency responder.

The board responded to complaints about the condition of the ambulance office, where a tour showed a need for repairs and improvements. With most of the staff traveling from outside Shandaken to be on call, the housing is heavily utilized. Mullerleile has found employees willing to donate time to work on painting and paneling, as well as replacing beds, couches, desks, and other furnishings. A standby generator, transfer switch, and new stove will also be purchased. The board voted to expend $5000 from the Good Neighbor Fund to make the upgrades, which will hopefully contribute to attracting new employees as well.

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Mullerleile reported that the ambulance service received 44 calls in January, usually the department’s most active month, largely due to accidents on the ski slopes. 

Stanley said councilwoman Storms has been working on contract negotiations with the physicians interested in renting the town-owned former clinic building, next door to the ambulance office. She hopes to reach an agreement by April, with a possible May move-in date.