County delays call for EMS proposals

By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

Bonner County Commissioners are putting the brakes on restructuring the county’s Emergency Management Services.

Since news broke in December that the BOCC was considering a major shift in EMS operations — possibly to a nonprofit model — several members of the public, including many emergency services professionals, have voiced opposition and offered suggestions for improving the system. 

During a public hearing on the matter Jan. 18, it seemed the BOCC intended to issue a request for proposals in the near future, allowing agencies outside the county to outline their ideal EMS plan. 

Commissioner Dan McDonald told the Reader Tuesday that the county won’t be making that request any time soon, but instead giving recently appointed EMS Director Jeff Lindsey more time to make internal improvements to the department as it currently stands.

“(Lindsey) and I agreed that he should get a bit more time to get EMS back up to where it should be,” McDonald said.

McDonald said the BOCC will likely hold off on the RFP until the end of 2020.

“As I’ve said all along we are not in a big hurry here, so it seemed prudent to postpone the RFP process for now,” McDonald said.

The Fire Chief’s Association, which has been working to present a fire-based EMS proposal to the BOCC, expressed disappointment at the postponement.

“It’s disconcerting to work on a project through meetings and gathering information for over 400 hours in prep for an RFP that was promised by the commissioners,” said Mark Sauter, president of the Fire Chief’s Association. “We think we found a lot of good information and have a good plan, and now to be told we can sit back and wait — it’s discouraging.”

The commissioners are currently in the process of solidifying a resurrected EMS advisory committee. The original committee went ad-hoc in 2016 due to low attendance, but the recent talk of restructuring EMS prompted requests from the community that a new advisory body be appointed.

McDonald said the function of the advisory committee is “only to review operational details and not determine which direction the management of EMS would go.”

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