County still needs more first responders

HUDSON–Shortages of emergency responders and jailhouse nurses dominated the Columbia County Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee meeting February 20.

Harry Franklin of Gallatin reported that people talk about shortages of firefighters and emergency medical technicians, and he wondered whether it has caused or can cause response times that are too long. “Is there a crisis already?” he asked.

“There’s no crisis, but we are looking at staffing,” said Deputy Fire Coordinator George Keeler.

“The problem is recruiting young people,” said Germantown Supervisor Robert Beaury.

In Columbia County, all firefighters are volunteers, who must work at additional jobs, if they want earned income. Also, “A lot of volunteers don’t work in local towns. They go to Albany or Dutchess county to work. When an emergency comes, we don’t know who will show up,” a committee member said.

“We’re aware of problems with retention” of emergency workers,” said Supervisor Matt Murell (Stockport), who is both chairman of the Board of Supervisors and a committee member. “We’ve had meetings about it.”

Suggestions included increased benefits for volunteer firefighters.

Mr. Murell and Committee Chairman Mike Benvenuto (Ghent), said the new emergency training center in Ghent should help.

Meanwhile Undersheriff John Davi said it was hard to find enough nurses for the Columbia County Jail. Regulations require a nurse on site 12 hours a day, but the jail has only three nurses on staff, too few to assure such coverage. So Undersheriff Davi asked that the county approve contracting with two nurse employment agencies to provide more nurses when necessary. After all, he commented, “it’s difficult for us to find people who want to work” in a jail.

Also at the meeting, Mr. Davi reported:

• “I think we’re going to see an increase in out-of-county inmates.” The jail has about eight inmates from Greene County and expects some from other counties. Attention was given to the money that boarding inmates from out-of-county bring Columbia County

• The Sheriff’s Office has plans to turn over a surplus vehicle to the Columbia-Greene Community College Department of Automotive Services.

The next meeting of the Public Safety Committee will take place Wednesday, March 20, at 5 p.m., at 401 State Street.

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