County Government

Coroner seeks funds for additional deputy in ‘22

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Montgomery County Coroner Darren Forman is asking the county for additional money to hire another deputy as the number of home calls have more than tripled in recent years.

The nearly $10,000 request was included in the department’s latest spending proposal Forman presented Tuesday to the Montgomery County Council on the second night of hearings for the proposed 2022 budget.

The run volume is up 15 cases year-over-year, Forman said. Calls ranged from everything from drug overdoses to June’s fatal single-engine plane crash near Darlington.

Coroners are also being called to more cardiac arrest cases. Forman said studies show paramedics have a better chance of resuscitating a patient by staying at the scene. A coroner is called if on-scene lifesaving efforts fail, and the victim is taken to the county’s morgue instead of the hospital’s mortuary.

Forman said ideally two coroners should respond to calls to reduce the risk of injuries from lifting patients. His request would bring to four the number of deputies on staff.

Meanwhile, the office has purchased a decertified ambulance from the Crawfordsville Fire Department for $15,000 to replace the coroner’s vehicle after the lease expires. The funds will come from the Board of Commissioners’ budget.

“As you can imagine, it’s the perfect coroner’s vehicle,” Forman said.

Department heads presented their spending wish lists to the council this week to help craft next year’s budget. The proposed spending package includes a 2% raise for employees.

The advertised budget amount currently totals more than $37.7 million, though the numbers have not been finalized. The county had about $30.9 million in the bank this year and roughly $13.7 million had been spent as of June 30. The final budget will be adopted later this fall.

At the 911 dispatch center, concerns about employee retention and salaries persist into the new budget season. Since July, four of the center’s 19 dispatchers have left for better-paying jobs and one was terminated, said director Sherri Henry.

“Those dispatchers work 12-hour shifts and we ask the very same things that law enforcement, fire and EMS are asked of them,” Henry said. “The only difference is we are not on the scene, however, we are the first people that the community talks to, as well as the first responders that go to the calls we send them on.”

A recent study analyzing dispatcher salaries ranked Montgomery County sixth out of seven area counties for starting pay. Newly-hired dispatchers are paid an annual salary of $34,600. The highest annual starting pay was $44,720 in Hendricks County.

The analysis was part of an ongoing assessment of the center’s operations and facilities that is due in October.

Henry said she plans to meet with the council’s salaries committee in September to ask for dispatchers to be reclassified as public safety workers, which would bring the county in line with recent changes to state law.

The center’s budget has already been approved by the Central Communications Center Governing Board.

On the judicial side, Circuit Court Judge Harry Siamas told the Council he expects several juries to be seated this fall as trials resume after being halted due to the coronavirus pandemic. Siamas’s budget request was unchanged except for the salary increases. Superior Court 1 Judge Heather Barajas and Superior Court 2 Judge Daniel Petrie presented their funding requests Monday on the first night of budget hearings.

The council requested an additional $10,000 for financial consultant Jeff Peters, who has been advising the county more since the Tempur Sealy project was announced.w

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