County EMS shift sees pushback

By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

The Board of Bonner County Commissioners is experiencing pushback following the news that the county may transition their current Emergency Management Services system from county-operated to a non-profit entity.

“We are always looking for better ways to do things, and we noted that EMS was a place that needed a much harder look,” said Commissioner Dan McDonald.

McDonald said North Valley EMS, the non-profit that the county’s EMS operations may be turned over to, was “created to potentially do business with Bonner County” by now interim EMS director Jeff Lindsey. Former EMS Chief Bob Bussey resigned earlier this month.

McDonald noted that nothing is set in stone just yet, and that a transition from the current EMS model to anything new is “at least six months to a year out.”

“There is a great deal of work between now and then,” McDonald said.

He said the non-profit option became appealing after being “impressed” by operations in Boundary County, where they use the non-profit EMS model.

Members of the public shared their concerns at the Dec. 18 BOCC business meeting. Former Sandpoint mayor Carrie Logan said the discussion around EMS worried her on “several levels,” noting possible violation of open meeting laws, lack of a bid process and possible changes to EMS response time and staffing as her main concerns.

“I encourage you to hold off on your plans and conduct a transparent, open process — for the sake of public finances and the safety of our community,” she said.

McDonald said none of what the commissioners have done so far regarding the EMS issue violates open meeting law, and everything will be run past the county’s attorneys before moving forward.

County commissioner-elect Steven Bradshaw also made comment, quoting Thomas Edison in saying “When you think you’ve exhausted all the possibilities, you haven’t.”

“I’m not sure of all the details of everything that went into this, but I would encourage ya’ll to really rethink this,” Bradshaw said.

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