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Front Page » November 22, 2005 » Local News » Carbon Officials Allocate Stipend for Swat Team
Published 3,603 days ago

Carbon Officials Allocate Stipend for Swat Team

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Sun Advocate reporter

SWAT team members listen as Carbon lawmakers diliberate about earmaking county funding to provide the emergency response personnel with a monthly stipend. Officials decided to allocate $250 per month to the individual SWAT team members at the Nov. 16 commission meeting.

Members of Carbon County's special weapons and tactics unit will receive a $250 monthly stipend after a decision last Wednesday by county commissioners.

The Nov. 16 decision came after the matter had been addressed by county lawmakers in October.

On Oct. 19, the matter originally came before the commissioners.

At that time, the SWAT team, a team of nine sheriff deputies, was given standard pager pay.

County employees who are required to carry pagers are given $1 per hour according to county policy.

With nine on the SWAT team, if each received pager pay for 14 hours per day, seven days a week, the annual expense to the county would be more than $75,000.

"The problem we run into is the amount that was passed is a budget-buster," pointed out Commissioner Michael Milovich.

Since the commission meeting in October, the SWAT team and Carbon officials have discussed possible options that may reduce the strain on the county budget while still giving some level of compensation to the team members.

"As far as I'm concerned, you're all underpaid," said Commissioner Steve Burge.

One possible option that was considered is similar to what the county's hazardous materials team receives.

HAZMAT crew receives $500 per month in the form of a stipend.

However, county officials pointed out several differences between SWAT and HAZMAT teams.

During the course of the 36 months, the county's SWAT team has responded to 18 calls, an average of one every two months.

Kyle Kulow, one of nine county sheriff deputies on the SWAT team, spoke to the commission in favor of compensating SWAT team members with pager pay.

In contrast, the HAZMAT team responds to two or more emergency incidents per month - four times the number of calls fielded by SWAT.

In addition, the county attempts to recover costs for the HAZMAT team by billing insurance companies and property owners.

The cost recovery offsets the majority of the expense to the county for providing HAZMAT pay.

Funding for the SWAT team on the other hand, will have to come from county funds.

Milovich said the SWAT team had been formed with little involvement of the commission and asking for funding after the fact creates a financial burden for the county.

"This is the cart before the horse syndrome," said Milovich, expressing his view that some of the budget and other considerations hadn't been fully considered at the onset.

Further, Milovich pointed out that HAZMAT team members act in a role above and beyond their normal duties. While SWAT team members may have specialized training, they act in their role as law enforcement.

"The SWAT team is an integral part of law enforcement, but if you weren't there, you'd be going in anyway," he said.

SWAT team members at the meeting explained that in many circumstances, police wouldn't be able to respond in the way SWAT does. In addition, changes in federal regulations regarding terrorism threat have pinpointed Carbon County as having a higher than normal risk compared with other rural areas.

In particular, assessments by national officials place the Carbon Power Plant in Price Canyon high on the list of possible threats to the nation's infrastructure.

Still, Milovich said that the sheriff's office would have to respond to any incident. However, Milovich agreed that participation by SWAT team members deserved a level of compensation.

"I'm willing to give compensation,but it can't bust the budget," said Milovich.

Burge pointed out that in October, the decision to give regular pager pay had been a result of following county policy. However, budget restraints forced officials to reconsider the matter and look for an alternate option.

The commission approved a motion to give $250 per month to each person on the SWAT team. In addition, the commission agreed to review the amount periodically and make adjustments as necessary. The cost to the county will be $27,000 annually.

The county's personnel director, Dennis Dooley, clarified some points regarding how the stipends to SWAT and other county employees has to be handled.

By the Fair Labor Standards Act, any pay for work outside of the regular 40-hour work week would be considered overtime. As a result, for reporting purposes, the $250 received by SWAT team members will show as overtime pay.

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