Stranger things at county

Recent Marion Coun­ty Board of Commissioners meetings have been bitterly divisive at times, paralyzed with respect to meeting amicably on issues, and stalemated at almost every turn.

Two weeks ago when Commissioner Kent Becker was absent, it seemed that Commissioner Randy Dallke set out to prove a point that he could make Chairwoman Dianne Novak ineffective by not seconding any of her motions.

Little by little, as a reporter who has covered these meetings since Novak and Becker came on board, I have seen “the commission” become so divided that the anger is intensifying with each meeting.

Rather than attempt to start helping each other understand the other’s concerns, with the most experienced commissioner leading the way, it’s as if antagonism is the true agenda item.

It might be fun for people who enjoy watching soap operas to attend these meetings.

But when these elected officials are unable to put their personal feelings aside while dealing with the public’s $29 million, the taxpayers must get involved.

It makes me wonder if the commissioners are voting for an issue because it is what is in the best interest of the taxpayer or if it’s in the best interest of their ego.

Which brings me to the EMS department and volunteers.

The issue of whether we need a training officer and assistant director tacked on to what has now become an expandable EMS budget seems to be up to the commissioners.

But if the EMS budget will continue to need more money to fund paid EMTs (or paramedics), then I believe other areas of the budget will need to live with less money in their budgets.

As the cities within the county continue to hold the line or come close, it seems the county is asking the public for a blank check when it comes to EMS.

Much of that is based on the lack of volunteers that appears to be the future, according to Dallke and Debesis both.

If the county holds the line on the budget, while giving EMS more money for more people, equipment or whatever is needed, maybe a certain amount of money could be taken away from all the other departments equally across the board.

It’s really up to the citizens of Marion County to put a priority on what they believe is financially of the utmost importance to them.

Yes, I agree, if I am the person in a car accident and it’s life and death, I sure would want someone to come and get me to a hospital as soon as possible.

Having said that, I think I might be willing to give the EMS budget some money out of another department to make that happen if the volunteer pool “could” dry up as Debesis said could happen and as Dallke eluded to.

While many headlines seem to talk doom and gloom about the changing face of EMS, I was surprised to see one business woman who said she believes volunteers are critical to the future of EMS.

She also said the realities of volunteers don’t match the mythology of “volunteer bashing.”

According to Nancy Magee, volunteers remain the foundation of America’s Emergency Medical Services.

EMS volunteers answer close to half of the nation’s 911 calls, she said, possibly up to 90 percent in the most rural states.

“Eighty percent of volunteer agencies surveyed nationwide report that they are optimistic about the foreseeable future,” she said

“Of the 20 percent who are uncertain about their future only 8 percent expect to be out of business within five years.”

Magee talked about the older EMS members being the tribal elders.

“They are the historians, protectors of the core principles and culture that provided the foundation for today’s EMS.

“All members are unique and vital components of your squad and they need to hear that at every gathering, not just at award banquets.”

One thing that I haven’t seen done in this county that was something the newspapers gladly did in Idaho and in northwest Kansas was let the public know at least a month in advance when the next EMT classes were being offered.

That might also generate interest.

Patty Decker writes news and features for the Free Press. you can reach her at