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Emergency Service Help Sparks Debate

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The Emergency Services (EMS) and fire departments have sparked a lot of discussion throughout the community with the dismissal of Fire Chief, Ian Nelson two days before Thanksgiving. On Tuesday night the county council brought up the discussion of the need for a full-time administrative assistant for the department. The position posted was for part-time with EMT experience. 

Most of the volunteer EMTs are doing both EMT work and administrative work which can be time consuming and difficult, especially when most EMT’s have other full-time jobs outside of their volunteer hours. Council Member, Tina Cannon spoke of the problem of the overworking of volunteers with the EMS department. She said, “The EMS work from 6 am-6 pm. They don’t have time to do the secretarial part of the job. We haven’t had anyone with EMT qualifications apply. To make it (EMT experience) required, we have zero applicants.”

Budget came into the discussion as the main hold up for opening up a full-time position for the EMS department. Council Chair, Ned Mecham said, “The full-time benefits haven’t been budgeted.” The administrative assistant would work for both the EMS department as well as the fire department if budgets could be aligned. Both departments have expressed the need, and Cannon stated the decision should be left to the department heads on whom to hire. Though, not everyone agreed all the hiring decisions should be left only to the departments heads, stating the county council had to have a say in such a position. 

Using the example of the full-time animal control position, Council Member, Robert Kilmer said, “The department heads need to go through the budget process with the county council. With Animal control the sheriff had to do the budget process to make that position full-time. It didn’t just happen. 

Fire Warden, Boyd Carrigan was asked to offer insight. Carrigan repeatedly asked for the council to cease the debates and hear the need of the emergency departments. He said, “Don’t use a temp. We need someone in there now.”

The recommendation from Carrigan was not to require applicants to be certified EMT’s. That way the applicant wouldn’t always be needed on a call and could tend to the administrative duties. It was suggested to have the position be for part-time, with full-time potential which would give the council time to decide on budget and assess the different needs of the departments. Cannon offered caution for the favored direction saying, “I’ve been doing this for 2 ½ years. Forty percent of this council didn’t even know that it would be in this state and I have worked with what was handed to me. I know what the needs are. Just know if you advertise it for part-time you will have two different candidate pools.”

The need for help in the departments wrapped up with a warning for the council from Carrigan about overworking volunteers. “It takes 500 hours to stay certified. You must recertify every three years, turning many volunteers away. Many chiefs have even said ‘I don’t care if they’re certified. I need someone to show up and not be a liability’. Recruiting and maintaining volunteers is going to be a major challenge. We need to start pointing toward paid.”

The council agreed for a position to be advertised for part-time with full-time potential. It was also stated that if there is a volunteer program there would be room for anyone who was qualified to be a volunteer for the emergency services. Including county and city employees. 

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