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“Someone had to do it”

EMS Director Jimmy Barnett explains why he approached Fiscal Court about incentive plan

“If someone isn’t willing to step
up and do something,” McCreary
County EMS Director Jimmy Barnett
declared adamantly. “Nothing
ever changes.”
In general, Barnett’s philosophical
declaration about initiating
change for the sake of improvement
applies to all situations; however,
his declaration currently relates to
the recent approval of an incentive
plan granting raises to all county
employees based on their length of
“I had to do something,” Barnett
explained. “We (EMS) were to the
point of losing employees at a record
Barnett said he has been working
on an incentive plan for quite
some time. Initially, he approached Fiscal Court approximately three
months ago and asked them to consider
an incentive plan granting pay
increases to county employees as
they meet certain milestones of service.
After hearing Barnett’s initial
plea, Fiscal Court proposed and
approved an incentive plan during
their August 11, 2022 meeting.
The approved plan grants a
.50 cent per hour increase after
one year of service. Additional
.50 cent per hour increases are
provided after two and five
years of service. Upon completion
of ten consecutive years of
county service, employees receive
an increase of $1.00 per
hour. After 15 years of service,
another .50 cent increase is
granted. After twenty years of
service, an increase of $1.00 per
hour is granted. Under the incentive
plan, county employees
receive a total of $4.00 per hour
in pay increases over a twenty
year period of service. Barnett said he pursued the
incentive plan for county employees
because McCreary
County can’t compete with
other counties when it comes
to giving raises.
“However, we can give
them something for staying
with us,” Barnett stated.
“Other counties already
have incentive plans based
on length of service. Now,
that we have one in place,
our county workers’ pay will
start being comparable to
those in other counties. We
have been behind other counties
in pay because they’ve
been doing incentive plans
for years. This will be the
start of us catching up with
Barnett is aware of concerns
that the incentive pay
increases will eventually
lead to higher taxes. However,
Barnett does not think
higher taxes are a given.
“This plan was set up to
pay for itself without raising
taxes,” Barnett said. “When
the incentive plan was approved,
only one magistrate
(District 1) voiced concern.
However, I do know the
pay increases have spawned
a write-in candidate to run
against the incumbent in District
Barnett feels his own department
(EMS) will help
finance the newly approved
incentive plan for years to
“We do non-emergency
runs where we transport from
hospital to hospital,” Barnett
explained. “We have a contract
with Lake Cumberland
Regional Hospital and are
working on a contract with
Baptist Regional in Corbin.
Those hospitals call us to
transport their patients to
larger hospitals. When contracts
are in place, hospitals
are required to pay us if the
runs are not covered by insurance.
Funds from the
non-emergency runs will
help pay for the incentive
plan. As long as we have
EMS employees to run the
trucks, we can make money.”
Barnett does not foresee
the non-emergency runs subsiding.
“I don’t see us losing contracts,”
Barnett noted. “I live
with my office phone 24/7
because it transfers over to
my cell phone when I am
away from the office. If I
go on vacation, our Assistant
Chief Director, Brandi Gibson,
has the same set up with
her phone. Seldom a night goes by that we don’t receive
a call from Lake Cumberland
or Corbin Baptist Health requesting
a non-emergency
In addition to non-emergency
runs for hospitals,
EMS also manages nonemergency
transports for
Signature Health.
Last month, McCreary
EMS brought in $144,866.51
total revenue for the county.
Of that total, approximately
$40,000 was non-emergency.
The August revenue resulted
from 472 total EMS
runs with 69 of those being
non-emergency runs. From
July 1, 2020-June 30, 2021,
EMS garnered approximately
$350,000 non-emergency.
With all of the EMS revenue
going back to the Fiscal
Court’s General Fund,
emergency run funds are appropriated
to help maintain
EMS while non-emergency
run revenue can be used to
help fund the incentive plan.
“Having an incentive plan
gives county employees an
extra incentive to be here,”
Barnett said. “They should
be able to make money for
putting their time in and staying
with us as employees.”
Since the incentive plan
was approved, Barnett has
seen an improvement in
morale among his EMS employees.
“They appreciate what
we’ve done,” Barnett noted.
“EMS employees are working
harder on not calling in
sick or taking a vacation day.
That helps cut overtime because
when someone in EMS
calls in sick or for a vacation
day, we have to fill that spot.
Filling that spot for a shift
easily leads to someone getting
overtime hours and pay.
We’ve cut our overtime drastically
since the incentive
plan went into effect. We all
know we’ve got to cut costs
to help pay for incentives,
and our employees are trying
to do that.”
Barnett said he initially
considered fighting for an
incentive plan applicable
only to his own EMS/Dispatch
employees. However,
he didn’t consider that fair to
the other departments.
“I took it on myself to fight
for it county-wide,” Barnett
explained. “I think that’s
the only way it would have
Barnett said he hopes the
County never has to raise
taxes, and he recognizes the
predicament of living and
working in a county predominantly
owned by the federal
government and having little
tax base. However, he also
knows the people who do
reside in McCreary County
need access to services and
jobs that pay a living wage.
He said the fact that his effort
to gain an incentive plan
for county employees has led
to a write-in candidacy in the
District 3 magisterial race
troubles him.
“I have nothing against the
write-in candidate,” Barnett
said. “I have been friends
with her and her family for
years. However, I also know
how hard the incumbent
magistrate has worked for
his District. I’d hate for him
lose simply because he did
something good for county
However, Barnett does not
regret the challenge he took
“I was told by other department
heads that I was
wasting my time,” Barnett
commented. “However,
someone had to do something.” “I drive here from Middlesboro, and the
incentive pay raise definitely helps me
with the rising cost of gas. I’ve worked
everywhere in southeastern Kentucky,
and this service has the best equipment
and protocols. Since McCreary County
doesn’t have a hospital, and the closest
hospital is 45 minutes away, we
definitely need to have the best equipment and protocols.
With a hospital that far away, we need the best EMS service
in order to make a real difference for people living in
McCreary County.”
John Epperson, Advanced EMT

“I feel the
pay plan
is very
for us. It
helps with
pay and gives us more
reason to stay in McCreary
County. There are services
that pay more closer to
where I live, but this is the
best service I’ve worked
for. The equipment here is
better, and I wouldn’t want
to leave because of pay. It
all makes for a great work
James Alexander,
Advanced EMT

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