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Fire/EMS Combination - Actions to be taken

ALERT!!   ALERT!!       

 

FIRE/EMS COMBINATION—ACTION TO BE TAKEN

The BOC has called another Special Meeting, Tuesday night,

August 23, at 6:00pm.  The Agenda states, “Receive report from EMS/Fire Committee and consider taking appropriate action.”  The public has been given virtually NO information on this very expensive proposition.

 

We want you to know what is proposed and this is one time we all need to show up in force at the BOC meeting.  So far the only thing that has provoked any type of attendance at the BOC meetings has been the “hospital issue.” This is another issue you should be willing to take a stand on.  It will cost you millions in additional tax dollars.

 

The BOC formed what was to be a citizens committee to determine IF the EMS and Fire departments should combine.  Half of the people on the committee were county employees—Ed Westbrook, 2 of his employees, the previous county manager, a commissioner, and the insurance agent that handles the EMS/Fire insurance.  This was NEVER a citizen’s committee.  We wonder how much input the “citizen” had, if any.  The first thick proposal was a copy of Monroe County’s policy that had Jasper County plugged in.  In the most recent draft of the “Statement of Policy” the only benefit mentioned is “faster response times”.  Is there a crisis?  Why is this combination of services so important at this time? 

 

At the present time there are ambulances being housed at the Jackson Lake VFD along with the Fire truck.  As discussed at the TWG meeting last week, this is fine until the ambulance is out at a fire on Jackson Lake Road and someone in Shady Dale or Hillsboro has a heart attack.  What will the response time be then?  The citizens have never been able to ask questions nor have they ever seen the report of heard about what is in it to be able to ask questions.  Before voting, the BOC needs to make sure copies of the proposed policy are available to the public for their review since they’ll be the ones paying for all the additional costs.

 

What will all this cost?  There is no mention of cost to taxpayers.  There is no 5-year cost plan, no annual cost plan.  There is no mention of how many people will have to be hired. This is just a proposal in which the BOC is required to “provide sufficient funding.”  There are several provisions in the “Statement of Policy” that we have listed for you.  Please keep in mind that Ed Westbrook will be the Emergency Services (ES) Director and this is his proposal.

 

  • BOC will be responsible to “provide sufficient funding to permit EMS to carry out its duties”, but no mention as to how much this might be
  • “All county level Emergency Services (ES) Chiefs shall be responsible for the management of his/her designated area of responsibility, as assigned by the ES Director.”
  • The “ES Director will serve as chairperson of the Fire Chief’s Assoc. “
  • The “ES Director shall appoint a member to serve as Vice Chairman”
  • “Management personnel my include any combination of the following: a Board of Directors, Fire Chief, and Fire Officers, who shall be elected annually by the active membership of each station AND APPROVED BY THE ES DIRECTOR.”  (The members elect their chief’s, etc. but they can only serve if the ES Director approves!)
  • The ES Director will have control of Firefighters, 911 Operators, Paramedics, EMT’s, First Responders, and Emergency Support Persons.  (The ES Director will continue to build quite an empire under his control.)
  • Somehow the charters of the VFD will be dissolved because the statement goes on to say, “individual Volunteer Fire Stations are free and clear to pursue reinstatement of their charters” if the County ceases to provide ES for the citizens. 
  • “Recruitment and selection of volunteer emergency response personnel remains the responsibility and discretion of the respective volunteer stations with FINAL APPROVAL OF THE ES Director.” (You can volunteer, but only if the ES Director approves of you.)
  • “The responsibility for training and continued education of all personnel remains the responsibility of the County Level Chiefs and/or the ES Director.  (If it remains the responsibility, when is it going to take place?  We’ve heard complaints ever since Mr. Westbrook took over the EMS that he provides no training for the paramedics.  That may be because he is not a paramedic himself!)
  • “Acquisition, maintenance and upkeep of the apparatus and equipment shall be the responsibility of the County with direct input from the ES Director.” (Mr. Westbrook told the BOC that if they hired part-time firefighters they would be maintaining the equipment and the lawns and buildings at the VFD, and they were needed because the Volunteers didn’t want to or didn’t have time to do it.  These part-time firefighters are NOT doing the job the BOC and the public were told they would do.  The cost is about twice as high as the BOC was told it would be by Mr. Westbrook.)
  • “Placement of future stations will be based on assessments of countywide needs as determined by recommendation of the ES Director.”

 

The Citizens have never been given a report as to the cost of this “idea.”  Yes, many other bigger, less rural counties are going to this type of combination.  (However, we seriously doubt one person is over all aspects of ES in those counties.)  The driving force behind this combination has been the current director, Ed Westbrook.  None of the information has been given to the public—how the committee came up with its recommendations, what was done, etc.  We’d like to know if the Committee had any recommendations or if this proposal was done by Ed Westbrook himself

 

We have also done some research.  Covington has full time firefighters.  The cost to man a station 24/7 would be approximately $1 million per year per station.  Jasper County has 7 stations.  That would cost us $7 million per year.  That increase would just about double the county budget.  Yes, one minute might save a life and there is no value that can be placed on that.  However, with this proposal, you will have to hire personnel, pay for training and outfitting them, and purchase several more ambulances for the plan to work.  We want some sort of cost estimate for this proposal before the BOC even considers signing off on it.  We want the public to be totally aware of what the benefits will be, and exactly who will be benefiting.  Has any other alternative been thought of?  Would it be more feasible to have 4 ambulances instead of 2?  That way there could be an ambulance stationed in Monticello, Hillsboro, Jackson Lake area, and Shady Dale.  How much would that cost in comparison to the current proposal?  What are the alternatives?  What are the drawbacks?  Do the volunteer firefighters know about it?  Have any of them had any input?  Is it OK for the ES Director to do away with their charters and to appoint their chiefs?  Will the chiefs be paid?

 

We’ve not heard any discussion about any of this at the BOC meetings (except when the committee was being formed).  Do the Commissioners really have all the facts or will they go with a proposal and then find out how much it will cost?  The new commissioners ran on cutting taxes, not increasing them.  Please attend the meeting.  This is a very important and expensive proposition.  The BOC needs your input. 

TWG
 

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