Owens approves hiring 10 Arundel paramedics

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Amid complaints that Anne Arundel County paramedics are dangerously overworked, County Executive Janet S. Owens has authorized fire officials to hire 10 new ones.

The paramedics will replace 10 firefighters - not all of whom work as paramedics - who have retired since July 1, Division Chief John M. Scholz said.

Chief Roger C. Simonds still plans to leave vacant 18 positions as part of the county's cost-savings measures, Scholz said. "We know we need paramedics," he said. "The chief's been concerned about their situation for quite some time."

Scholz said the addition of the paramedics, who could be working as soon as four weeks from now, should help reduce the department's overtime, which topped $7.2 million last fiscal year.

This week, County Council members requested an audit of the 630-member Fire Department's overtime spending, saying they had questions about Simonds' use of overtime to pay for an unapproved warehouse project and to help cover the shifts of two captains who had been assigned to positions not approved by county officials.

Owens decided to let Simonds hire up to 10 paramedics after meeting with him this week, said her spokeswoman, Jody Couser. The county executive was not available for comment yesterday.

The county's 137 paramedics for weeks have been sending Owens a postcard each time one is asked to work a 24-hour overtime shift after working a regular 24-hour shift. Owens has received about 25 postcards since last month, Couser said.

County paramedics have been dangerously overworked in recent months, said Keith W. Wright, president of the Anne Arundel County Professional Fire Fighters union.

Sun staff writer Ryan Davis contributed to this article.

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