Windsor EMS workers say they aren't getting paid - KCTV5

Windsor EMS workers say they aren't getting paid

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EMS workers in the small town of Windsor, MO, say they are weeks behind in their pay, and at least one employee says it is time for the ambulance district to close. EMS workers in the small town of Windsor, MO, say they are weeks behind in their pay, and at least one employee says it is time for the ambulance district to close.

A strapped rural ambulance service is two months behind in issuing paychecks as it creeps towards solvency.

The Windsor Ambulance District has been bleeding money for years. Some people in town have been desperate to save it. But one of its EMTs says it's time to throw in the towel.

"The money comes from fees for service and property taxes. We don't have a Walmart here that they can get a sales tax against," said EMT Mark Lindsay.

Lindsay lives in the town of 3,000 people and had spent 14 years with the ambulance district, which services people in town and a broad swath of rural area outside of the small town.

Like the nine other EMS employees, he's four paychecks, or two months, behind.

"One of my heart medications by itself is $140 roughly, and that's all out of pocket," Lindsay said.

It's out of pocket, he says, because the ambulance district dropped its health plan several years ago in attempt to cut costs.

The delayed pay had been an issue for months. When Lindsay's wife died this year, he couldn't shoulder the burial cost.

"My kids pay my bills," Lindsay said. "I'm 56 years old. I shouldn't have my kids paying my bills."

No money to fix an unreliable car means he can't look for work outside of town.

It's a bind.

But sit in on an ambulance board meeting, and it becomes clear that bind is a tough one to undo.

"We were able to keep the gas on, the phone on and the water on," the treasurer announced to the rest of the board Monday night.  "So those are all good news tidbits."

She then went on to suggest that anyone who is "the praying kind" say a prayer for the generating enough income to pay the annual premium for liability insurance.

A new ambulance district director took over in July, and most of the current members of the all-volunteer ambulance board began in late October.

The goal was to recoup from years of mismanagement.

"This situation didn't accrue overnight," said paramedic and director Mike Barofske. "It can't be fixed overnight. I don't think it's realistic to expect that it would be."

Folks in town have had fundraisers in a struggle to avoid turning to another ambulance district. They fear doing so will negatively impact response times.

In August, they began holding fundraisers to keep the service going. The damage from past administrations included a year's worth of bills for service never mailed and payroll taxes removed from paychecks but never sent to the IRS.

The IRS threatened to close the local service.

Barofske says the board recently reached a favorable settlement and payment plan with the IRS.

They've also altered pay structure. Aside from Barofske, who remains salaried, the others are paid hourly at minimum wage, something that irks Lindsay.

"I've been there 14 years," he said.  "And I now make the same as someone who started this summer or who walks in off the street right now."

At Monday's meeting, the treasurer was unable to predict how quickly the board could collect on unpaid bills for ambulance service. The other source of revenue, property taxes, are due at the end of the year.

"I think we are going to be on much better ground the first quarter of the year," said Barkofske. "But we have a lot of issues to work through. And that's what we are doing."

Lindsay wonders if it even can be done at this point.

"They can say that they will have us caught up on pay by the end of March," said Lindsay. "But what's going to happen in April or May? Are they going to be back in the same boat?"

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