Highland County Board of Supervisors Hears Final Report of the EMS Citizen Committee and More at Work Session – Part 1
Several reports were given to the Highland County Board of Supervisors at their Wednesday, July 18, 2018 Work Session. Several months ago, a Citizen Committee was appointed to look in to solutions to keep Emergency Medical Services sustainable. Members Paul Klein, Kristie Siron, Iris Hooke and Steve Fullerton were in attendance. At the work session, the EMS Citizen Committee presented its final report, and three possible solutions were discussed. Option 1 is that the Squad should continue on as a fully volunteer service to the community, relying on volunteer membership and community funding through donations and grants, plus revenue recovery. Option 2 is that the Squad should continue to operate as a volunteer organization, with sufficient paid staff to provide full coverage for single calls. Additional calls while paid responders are engaged would be met by volunteer responders. Option 3 is to organize a county-operated Squad of six paid providers to answer all calls, with some manner of compensation for volunteers from the existing Squad who run when the paid staff are engaged.
In addition, five recommendations were presented by the Citizen Committee. 1. Because there is no formal oversight of Squad operations or responsiveness, it is the Committee’s recommendation that a permanent Citizens Review Committee be established independent of the Board of Supervisors and the Highland County Volunteer Rescue Squad. This Committee would be responsible for setting policy, auditing funds, hiring and firing of paid Squad members, and conducting performance reviews. 2. If the county is going to hire permanent personnel, the Committee recommends that a selection board be established to seek applicants, review applications and conduct interviews to secure the best-fit hires. Members of this Committee should be drawn from Highland County and the EMS community beyond Highland and include the President and Captain of the Squad, but no other members of the Squad or any employee of the county. Matt Lawler, Captain for EMS Operations Augusta Fire and Rescue, has agreed to chair such a Committee if asked by the Board. The Committee has secured a promise from Kim Craig, Staunton-Augusta Rescue Squad Executive, who also manages Highland’s revenue recovery program, to come to the Board to explain the pay structure and other aspects of a mixed paid and volunteer Squad. 3. Any funds contributed to the county should be subject to annual audit or another agreed upon accounting procedure. No transfer of funds should be made without full documentation. 4. The Squad, regardless of source of funding, should have a business plan, developed with the assistance of professional resources in the county provided on a pro bono basis. 5. The Committee recommends that the Squad leadership make a major effort to integrate members of the several fire departments in the county to assist when needed.
In Part 2 of this news story, we’ll have more details on some of the remaining items on the Work Session agenda.