By Lyndsie Kiebert
Bonner County Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to update the resolution which establishes an Emergency Management Services advisory committee.
The use of a reinvigorated EMS advisory committee has been a big topic of discussion amidst concerns about the BOCC moving EMS operations in a different direction. The most recently active EMS advisory committee went ad-hoc in 2016 due to low attendance.
Deputy Clerk Jessi Webster presented the changes to the existing resolution, which included the appointment of the current EMS chief as the chair of the committee, made meetings quarterly rather than monthly and eliminated “applications and peer nominations” as methods for choosing committee members.
Instead, the BOCC will advertise the open committee positions for two weeks and accept letters of interest. The BOCC-chosen members must include representatives from transport services, a local fire district, the medical community and one member of the public at large — a requirement established in the original resolution. Like all other advisory committees, EMS advisory meetings will be open to the public.
“This isn’t something different than any other advisory committee that the commissioners have,” Webster said. “In fact, this same wording, almost identical, is in the solid waste advisory bylaws, airport bylaws, waterways, natural resources — any other advisory committee that we have, this wording is within the resolution creating it.”
Dave VanNatter of the West Pend Oreille Fire District suggested the BOCC send letters to the most recent advisory committee members, thanking them for their previous service and personally inviting them to submit letters of interest. Local man Doug Paterson expressed concern that the commissioners would select committee members who would support a change of EMS operations at the whim of the BOCC.
“All these changes to the committee sound reasonable and not all that dramatic, but what I find dramatic is that you have an existing board and you’re going to dismiss all of those members and reappoint, at your discretion, entirely new members,” Paterson said.
Commissioner Dan McDonald said that when the BCEMS advisory committee was originally created in 2005, the intent was to workshop an entirely new EMS system. He said a committee created under the newly updated resolution would be focused only on improving “operational issues” within the existing system.
Commissioner Jeff Connolly argued that the advisory committee members last appointed were not legitimate because they weren’t appointed by the commissioners, as county statute requires.
“Because of the way this is such a convoluted mess at this point, we’re going to format this in the same way that we do all our other boards,” Connolly said. “That way we clarify it, and there shouldn’t be any question moving forward. I think that’s the right move: to clarify.”
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