It's forced some to take on three full-time jobs to make ends meet. That’s on top of often working 24 to 48 hours overtime in a single pay period to make up for others who left the department altogether.
“There's not a single person I work with who would put a citizen second and we try the best we can to keep that going and make sure they're taken care of. It just gets tough when you don't get a break and the morale sometimes; it's getting worse,” says one first responder who asked us to protect his identity for fear of being fired.
He says tough economic times forced county officials to freeze salary increases a few years ago.
County officials tell NewsChannel 3 all employees received a 2% raise last year and another 3% raise is proposed for next year, but a veteran on the force says it's not enough to keep up with the cost of living.
“It's hard on a family; it's hard on a marriage,” he says. “Everything continues to go up and your paycheck gets smaller, you know, more tax.”
“What do you all hope to see done? What's the goal?” asked NewsChannel 3’s Jackie Morlock.
“To get some sort of program back where folks know that there's a light at the end of the tunnel.”
While county administrator, James Reynolds, tells NewsChannel 3 they do their best to provide fair and competitive pay to all employees, he doesn't know when or if the current merit system for first responders will be reinstated.
Reynolds says the county plans to do a pay study to decide whether to reinstate the current pay scale or implement a new one.
First responders just hope that study happens sooner rather than later.
“Our goal is to live life, provide for our family and be able to give our kids just a little but more than what we had."