EMS director pumps brakes on councilman's plea for faster improvement

RICHLAND COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Plagued by complaints of turnover and low morale, Richland County EMS is under county council's spotlight.

Thursday night, the department's leader, Michael Byrd, stood before a council committee and told them things seem to be back on track. The chairman of the committee, Councilman Seth Rose, was surprised.

"I was honestly thinking we'd have some more concrete numbers of things this council – this committee – could do right now," Rose said.

Instead, Byrd seemed happy in current efforts to fill eight vacancies, approve raises, and buy supplies. But, he admits that's not all he needs. He'll likely need 48 new positions over the next two years.

"We're almost into December, so we're looking at six months left in this budget year, so I think we can get geared up for the next positions by the time the next budget year starts," Byrd told the council.

Rose's question:  Why not now?

"That was disappointing because I don't want to wait 'til next year to have twelve more, and then, after that – if we need 48, let's do it," Rose told WIS after the meeting.

Councilman Chip Jackson sees things differently. Although he said it's his job to monitor department heads, he says it's not his job to second-guess them.

"We have to trust the professional judgment of those who are in charge of departments and organizations to let us know what they need," he said.

Jackson said dumping money on Richland County EMS wouldn't be a cure-all anyway.

After the meeting, Byrd had no comment for WIS, but some of his employees did anonymously.

"Administration isn't advocating for us. That's not surprising at all," one wrote.

"He needs to get us what we need or turn over the reins to someone that will," another commented.

Finally, a higher-ranking employee wrote, "I just know we need way more people that we have now. What we have now isn't cutting it."

Council did take some action on EMS during the meeting. They voted unanimously to get an update from Director Byrd every three months or so.

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