Carbon County commissioners approved a measure Wednesday that will increase the compensation given to the county's hazardous materials response team members.
Robert Welch, a member of the HAZMAT team, gave a follow-up report to the commission at the regularly scheduled meeting on Sept. 7.
Welch had gone before the commissioners on Aug. 17 requesting that the county increase the compensation for the HAZMAT team members. At that time, the commission asked him to determine what an appropriate level of compensation would be.
"There is no voluntary HAZMAT team in Utah," Welch reported. He discovered that many of the HAZMAT teams are full-time personnel.
In Salt Lake County, members of the fire department who have HAZMAT training receive $12,000 in addition to their annual base pay.
HAZMAT personnel in Utah County are similarly compensated with $10,000 in additional pay.
The difference is that Salt Lake and Utah counties respond to more HAZMAT situations. And the members of the HAZMAT teams in the two counties are full-time employees.
That is a sharp contrast to the seven technicians who comprise Carbon County's HAZMAT team.
Until now, the team received pager pay. That is similar to what volunteer firefighters receive.
Volunteer firefighters carry pagers at home and work. During a specified period, they are on call and are supposed to remain in close proximity to the area they serve so they can respond in a moment's notice.
The county HAZMAT team suggested that the pay is insufficient given the risk that technicians face and the training they receive.
The number of calls that the team responds to has also steadily increased. Welch pointed out that on the day of the meeting, the team had responded to two separate calls.
Welch said the technicians on the team felt that at least $500 every month would be more appropriate given the team's present work load.
In return, Welch said the team would guarantee coverage 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"We cover a lot of bases also," said Welch. He pointed out that many of the technicians are also firefighters or EMTs and maintain certifications in those areas.
Currently, the county's team is comprised of seven members. Three represent the county's interest. Four are members of Helper's fire or police departments. The original plan had called for 11 or 12 members, with at least two coming from each municipality.
The commissioners expressed their concern that other communities had not selected team members. Particularly, the commission noted that Price currently has no representation on the HAZMAT team, although nearly half the county's population lives within Price city limits. However, Wellington, East Carbon and Sunnyside all lack representation on the HAZMAT crew as well.
The commission approved a measure that will increase pager pay for HAZMAT technicians in the county to $500 per month until the end of the year. After the new year, that money will still be given to each technician, though it will be either through wages or a contract agreement.
County employees will be given an additional $500 each month in their paychecks. Those who are not county employees will work on a contractual basis for the same amount. That will give each technician $6,000 annually.
Currently that pay is coming from the sheriff's budget. Commissioner Mike Milovich brought up the possibility of forming a separate department specifically for HAZMAT.
Another concern brought up was that of insurance. Whether they are county employees or not, the technicians are covered under the county's insurance. However, it was not known on Wednesday whether the county's insurance would cover employees in a HAZMAT incident.
County Clerk-Auditor Robert Pero said he would find out whether the county insurance covered HAZMAT employees and report back to the commission.