Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
After weeks of meetings and lengthy conversation on the subject, the Washington County Board of Supervisors voted down a motion on Monday morning to compensate Ambulance Director Jeremy Peck for roughly 180 hours of overtime in an under-three-month period.
The motion by Supervisor Jack Seward Jr. and seconded by Supervisor Marcus Fedler failed in a 2-3 vote, with all other board members voting against it.
“There are other people in the wings right now that have told us, ‘If you do this, I have people that are going over and above, are we going to compensate them?’” Supervisor Stan Stoops said. “We’re opening up a can of worms, that’s what we’re doing if we do this for you, and we’ve already been generous to our county employees with our pay.”
Board Chair Richard Young agreed, saying Peck’s overtime hours spent on duty were caused by a shortage of staff, which the county hopes recent pay raises will resolve.
“Hopefully, with us raising the employees’ wages, Jeremy, you won’t have to work unless somebody calls in sick,” he said. “We should give a chance with raising the pay of the paramedics, to see if that’s going to make a big difference. If it doesn’t, then I’m willing to look at this, but I think we haven’t had enough time.”
Peck stressed that he remained optimistic about attracting employees, but that future success would not undo the strain he’d already experienced.
“The numbers you have in front of you are pre-raises and pre-hiring, what you’ve done with raises has definitely helped us in attracting people,” he said. “I put the time in because it was the right thing to do … The hiring is going to prevent this, and that’s going to make me happy that I won’t have to come in, that’s the goal of it, that’s what I was hired for, but what I was asking for was stuff that I was doing above normal.”
The ambulance director also stressed that he had no intentions of quitting.
“You get what you pay for and I’m not threatening nothing … I will continue to move forward as I am, I will continue doing what I do, I ask for simple compensation,” he said. “We are a new entity, we are carving our own path, and we are trying to do our best for the citizens of this county. All these other people … they’ve had their opportunity, they just didn’t bring it to you.”
Seward said a one-time compensation for the extra hours was reasonable, disputing other board members’ concerns.
“This is not setting a precedence for any department head that works anything outside of the normal business hours,” he said. “This is an instance where 180 hours in two-and-a-half months is unusual and in my mind it’s above and beyond.”
Still, County Engineer Jacob Thorius said Peck’s amount of overtime fell within his department’s workload for salaried employees.
“We’ve had instances where we’re working 80 hours a week because of the snow for three weeks in a row,” Thorius said. “This idea was never thought of, that this could be a possibility, so it was never really looked at and hours were never kept track of. I would say there are instances of a similar time frame.”
Fedler said he was open to addressing Thorius’ concerns as well, saying the county’s failure to compensate overworked employees could bring a cost of its own: burnout.
“It’s economically irresponsible, as far as I’m concerned, to burn out a salaried employee by making them work shifts,” he said. “I don’t think that we need to establish a policy or even set a precedent that we’re going to compensate our directors for that … but I still think it’s excessive.”
The vote reflects a longer-term trend of controversy for county ambulance policy. Since the department’s establishment in 2020, it has implemented payscale changes, a new Basic Life Support crew, and the addition of a new ambulance, but only after supervisors tabled each motion at least once.
The issue of Peck’s overtime pay had been on meeting agendas for two months and pushed back each time as the county sought input from various attorneys and its own staff. Another series of proposals, this time for changes to the department’s procedures handbook, were tabled at the Monday morning meeting.
“Every single time the ambulance tries to do something, we run into a concrete wall,” Peck said. “There’s way too much drama, and I don’t need drama. I need positive people to support (the) ambulance … This is a good thing for this county, they’ve done a lot of good things, and they’re going to continue doing good things.”