Commissioners keep emergency medical dispatch

Following a second discussion on the future of using Emergency Medical Dispatch in Marion County, commissioners agreed during their Wednesday payday meeting to continue the service for now.

The issue of continuing EMD at annual cost of $60,000 to $100,000 a year surfaced at the Nov. 18 board meeting because Commission Chair Randy Dallke had suggested discontinuing the service to save money.

Commissioners Roger Fleming and Dan Holub had expressed reluctance to discontinue the limited-use service because of the life-and-death nature of its purpose in personal medical emergencies.

For Wednesday?s meeting, Dallke had asked Sheriff Rob Craft to gather more information. Craft appeared with Linda Klenda, communications supervisor, and Steve Smith, Emergency Medical Services director.

All three articulated the position as vocalized by Craft: ?I think it is a valuable service to the community. I would not like to see it go away.?

Dallke wanted to know how many of the EMD calls resulted in an EMS ambulance run, but Craft said that information was not identified in the records.

Craft and Smith estimated that about half of the EMD calls result in ambulance runs.

At least two of Dallke?s other questions were left unanswered, too: How many other counties use EMD, and how many calls come to Marion County between midnight and 6 a.m.?

Dallke said he understood that EMD provides a valuable service, but he has been frustrated with the county?s ongoing funding crunch.

Dallke said he had hoped to cut 2 mills in the budget for next year, but to protect needed services the budget had actually increased by 3 mills.

?I don?t like my constituents telling me we?re wasting money,? he said. ?I want them to tell me we?re running a tight ship.?

Holub said he shared Dallke?s budget frustration, but ?this is the wrong thing to cut, in my mind.? Holub identified the state?s reduction of funding to counties in recent years as the real culprit.

Fleming said of EMD, ?I think it?s important. Calling in an emergency, it?s a relief for (the caller) to get information and support.?

In the end, Dallke conceded, saying: ?I can tell my constituents I tried to save some money but got voted down.?

On a related topic, Smith noted the number of ambulance volunteers continues to decline in the county as long-time workers retire.

?We?re getting to the point of not having personnel to operate an ambulance in each community,? Smith said, noting the five-ambulance service that currently operates in five communities.

?It can?t stay that way (at this rate),? Smith said.

Emergency Management

Randy Frank, the county?s Emergency Man?age??ment director, reported that Peabody and Florence have projects that qualify to receive reimbursement funding from the Federal Emer?gency Management Agency. The projects relate to this summer?s heavy rains.

Frank added that FEMA has adjusted its payment rules in two ways that should benefit the county. First, FEMA will reimburse cities and counties for regular work time instead of just overtime hours. Second, FEMA will send funding as soon as a specific project is completed rather than waiting until all event-related projects are completed.

Frank also described Facebook as a ?beneficial tool? when emergencies occur within the county, and lobbied for its use. He said it would be one more way to share information with residents before, during and after, including the recruitment of volunteers to help with cleanup.

In the same vein, Frank also mentioned 211 phone service and text messaging.

In response, Fleming said the county would need to review its current social media policy to identify appropriate uses for it during emergency situations.

Following Frank?s request, commissioners indicated a willingness to find a way for Frank to use a county credit card on weekends and for purchases over $500 without first having to get author?iza?tion from the county clerk.

?Disasters don?t usually happen from 9 to 5,? Frank said about the need for more flexibility.

Frank received permission to purchase a camera and laptop computer for his office, each of which would cost more than $500 if he used a credit card. He was advised to make the purchase and have the supplier send the bill to the county.

Other business

In other business, the board

? was notified of the intent of Union Pacific Rail?road to install railway-highway crossing signals with gates and flashing lights on Pawnee Road near Aulne.

? agreed to review the county?s concealed carry policy regarding the courthouse. Commissioners have received a sample policy from Dickinson County. Flem?ing said Marion County likely would follow Dickin?son?s lead to allow concealed carry within the building?and for the same reason.

?We don?t have the finances to go the other route,? he said, which would be to ban weapons and then install metal detectors at the door to ensure weapons were not brought into the courthouse.

? heard that the county?s recycling Dumpster in Florence had been vandalized with graffiti. Because the paint was applied in cold weather, it was relatively easy to remove. The Sheriff?s Office and Florence Police Department were investigating the incident.

? was updated about private-party fence projects near Marion County Lake that are intended to prevent cattle in adjacent pastures from entering low areas that feed rain runoff into the lake. Commissioners ex?pressed gratitude to the participating landowners.

? heard County Clerk Tina Spencer report the county received from the state $61,249.06 in regular sales tax this month and $53,834 from the jail sales tax. The regular tax received was slightly higher than one year ago, and the jail tax was slightly lower.

? worked through a $670,780.19 payday agenda. Commissioners noted that the amount was significantly lower than other months.

? met in executive session for 10 minutes to discuss non-elected personnel. No action was taken when the public session resumed.

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