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Cole County commissioners are looking at how time off policies affect Emergency Medical Services personnel.

EMS Chief Matthew Lindewirth approached the commission about changing how vacation and bereavement time is handled. Under the current structure, he said, employees lose pay for taking those times.

Time taken off is not considered time worked, Lindewirth explained, which means it doesn't count toward the overtime EMS personnel normally receive for working 12- or 24-hour shifts.

"If a family member dies, or a mom dies, we're basically saying, 'Hey, you can go to the funeral, but we're not giving you your whole paycheck to do that,'" he said during Tuesday's commission meeting.

Lindewirth's request would make it so vacation time and bereavement time would be considered time worked.

This change would cost Cole County EMS an estimated $20,591 annually, Lindewirth said.

Western District Commissioner Harry Otto suggested looking into a pay rate of the person's annual salary divided by 2,080 for the number of hours the person would have worked.

It would likely cost slightly more, he said, but might be fairer because everybody would have the same hourly rate.

Otto suggested officials look into the options more. He also said he would like the county's incoming human relations director, who will start Monday, to be involved in the conversations.

Sheriff John Wheeler asked to look into a similar change for the Sheriff's Department and Public Works Department since employees at both also frequently see overtime.

Otto said the issue currently being considered relates to EMS, but Wheeler is welcome to bring his own proposal to the commission.

"There is a difference between an EMS 24-hour shift person and an 8-to-5 person," Otto said. "We've got to accept there are differences. Law enforcement has its own uniqueness as well. Public works is not quite as unique, but we get snow and people work overtime. But to just write one policy that covers all of those doesn't consider the uniqueness of each area."

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