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Bonner County EMS Special Meeting Called

The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, February 13, 2019 at 3:00 pm

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(photo: Bonner County Fair)

Bonner County EMS Special Meeting Called

by Shari Dovale

15 stakeholder groups are calling for a special meeting concerning the Bonner County Emergency Medical Services (BCEMS) Advisory Council.

This has been brought about due to all of the uproar recently concerning changes the Bonner County Commissioners seem to have planned for the BCEMS system and employees.

It was announced in December that the Commissioners had come to an employment agreement with former Bonner County employee Jeff Lindsey to direct the BCEMS until such time that the system may be switched from a public system to a privately operated system in the form of ‘North Valley EMS’, part of the Boundary County Volunteer Ambulance Service in Bonners Ferry. Lindsey is the current President of that organization.

This announcement was met with adverse reactions and multiple questions from the public, as well as employees throughout the county.

The Commissioners held a public event, which they called an ‘informational meeting’ but stressed that it was not a public meeting, for citizens to formally ask questions and make comments. The Commissioners did not plan to answer any questions and many people felt like it was already a ‘done deal’.

The event held at the County offices in Sandpoint on January 18th took comments ranging from calls for fire or police based services to questioning why these decisions were made behind closed doors in executive sessions with the Commissioners.

What may have begun as a personnel matter apparently grew to include the restructuring of the entire EMS organization. The public did not have any inkling of the coming changes before Commissioner Dan McDonald announced them through the Bonner County Daily Bee in December. All decisions to that point had been made through executive session in what some folks questioned as Open Meeting Law violations.

“It is reasonable to discuss the resignation of Bob Bussey [former director of BCEMS] in executive session, as that would have been a personnel matter,” one citizen commented later. “But that is where it should have ended.”

Commissioner Dan McDonald stated that no open meeting laws have been violated, though they have been researching this issue for months.

Several questions were raised at the January meeting concerning the EMS Advisory Council. McDonald explained that the Council went to “Ad Hoc” status in 2016, before he took office.

Due to the sheer number of comments requesting the Council to be reactivated, when asked about it, Commissioner McDonald did not commit to reactivating the board. “It depends,” he said. “If we go with the community based non-profit model, they will have their own board.”

“If not, and we choose to just hire a director, we still may opt to not activate the old advisory board as they came to the realization their initial charge had been completed, which is I’m guessing why they chose to go Ad hoc to begin with.”

However, the stakeholder members do not believe Commissioner McDonald understands everything about the Council, and cite Ordinance 456 as well as their bylaws.

Bonner County Ordinance 456 reads, in part, as follows:

The board shall establish an advisory council of no less than five (5) members, to be known as the Bonner County emergency medical services advisory council, whose primary functions shall be advisory to BCEMS and the board on matters pertaining to the provision of services within the county. (Ord. 456, 1-11-2005)

The Bylaws for the Advisory Council outline membership in the council, with the individual organizations determining who their representative will be. The Council is voted on by a simple majority of the members for a 1 or 2 year term. This is then forwarded to the Commissioners for mutual approval.

The stakeholder members feel that the research for any changes to the EMS system should have been done by the Advisory Council as part of their mandate.

The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, February 13, 2019 at 3:00 pm, at the Bonner County EMS multi use facility. 465838 Hwy 95 in Sagle, near Dufort Rd.

It is open to the public, and the public is encouraged to attend.

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