Highland County Board of Supervisors Presents Revised EMS Ordinance

At it’s annual close out meeting on Tuesday night, the Highland County Board of Supervisors presented a revised Emergency Medical Services Ordinance.  On June 16 a public hearing was held on the original ordinance, which made volunteer EMS responsible to the county EMS Chief and set the county’s paid EMS as the primary designated response agency.

Copies of the original proposed ordinance and the revised ordinance were handed out to those in attendance Tuesday night.  County Administrator Roberta Lambert quickly highlighted the changes in the new ordinance and said the easiest way to see the changes was to read both the original and the revision.  She said the revision was created from public comments the Board heard on June 16.

Board Chair Harry Sponaugle stressed that the Board could not vote on the revised ordinance at the meeting, because there is a required two week period between presenting an ordinance and voting.

Supervisor David Blanchard addressed concerns raised at the June 16 meeting, saying revenue recovery is important to the volunteer rescue squad.  He said now when county staff run calls, the revenue recovery goes to the volunteers.  He urged keeping that system in place.  Regarding the requirement that volunteers run a certain number of calls to maintain certification, Blanchard said he would like to find relief on that.  

Chairman Sponaugle said he spoke with Operating Medical Director, Dr. Asher Brand, about the call requirement and said Dr. Brand would be willing to lift some of the requirements.

Supervisor Blanchard said the Board was not against hearing about changes.  He said the ordinance allows volunteer EMS to exist, but it puts Highland County in charge of EMS.  He said it was a big change, but they were not getting rid of volunteer agencies.

During open public comment, speakers expressed concern about not being able to email Board members directly, as emails go to the County Administrator. There were comments about a breakdown in communication with constituents, the purchase of the carwash, having too many paid EMT’s and paid EMS staff not living in Highland.  There were also comments about the need for someone with varied management skills to handle all the EMS responsibilities and there were comments that paid salaries were too high, citing the EMS Chief earning $60,000 a year.

Highland County Volunteer Rescue Squad Captain Debbie Trible urged the Board to meet with the volunteers, have a discussion and then write the ordinance.  In response to a Board comment that no one from Highland applied for the paid positions, she said that was because they didn’t know the pay was going to be that high, because that’s not what it was advertised at.  She also apologized for not having advertised the Deputy Chief position.  She said they advertised for one person and also offered the Deputy Chief position to another person, but should have put that opening out to the public, but didn’t.

The Board tabled a request made by Paul Trible, President of the Highland County Volunteer Rescue Squad, asking that all vehicles be retitled in the name of the Volunteer Rescue Squad only and to remove all vehicles from the county’s insurance policy.  County Administrator Roberta Lambert said there are joint titles, because the county can only provide coverage as long as its name is included.

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Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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