Highland County Supervisors Hold Public Hearing on Proposed EMS Ordinance – Part 2

This is part two of coverage from the Highland County Board of Supervisors public hearing on the proposed Emergency Medical Services ordinance.

At the public hearing on June 16, the Board tabled action on the proposed EMS ordinance. The proposed ordinance places all EMS operation under the paid EMS Chief and sets the county’s paid EMS department as the primary designated response agency.

Petitions with more than 311 signatures were presented, asking the Board to postpone the vote until citizens were provided more information, including: a full briefing on the relationship between EMS volunteers and EMS employees, the reasoning and legal authority for the purchase of the car wash building, the cost and itemization of renovation costs of the building including lost revenue opportunity for the county of an operating car wash, future tax implications of the ordinance, plans if the volunteer organization ceases to exist and how the ordinance will affect the future of the fire department.

During the public hearing, 24 comments were made and it was reported that the county had received ten other comments prior to the meeting.  All public comments were in support of the Highland County Volunteer Rescue Squad.  Speakers said there was a need for someone trained in management to lead both groups, not an EMS provider without such experience.  Speakers also called the county’s purchase of the car wash underhanded, called for the EMS volunteers and EMS staff to work out their differences and expressed concerns about paid EMS staff living outside of Highland.  Speakers also said the Board needed more input, that it was making a rash decision.  The long term affordability of a fully paid staff EMS program was also questioned, saying Highland couldn’t afford it.

Speakers also commented about the ordinance stating that violation of it by any EMS personnel may be punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor. Speakers said that volunteers would not want to continue under that threat and also that ruling by threat of prosecution is a bad situation.

Supervisor David Blanchard said good comments were made that didn’t fall on deaf ears.  He said the Board didn’t enter into this willingly, as they were asked to do something.  He said it was hard to be painted as the bad guy, when they were only trying to get calls answered.

Board Chair Harry Sponaugle said regarding the issue of EMT’s living outside of the county, he said no one with paramedic experience from Highland applied.  Sponaugle said he reads the ordinance differently, that volunteers can run calls as much as they want and he doesn’t see it having an effect on revenue recovery for them.  He suggested the volunteers do transport, but Highland County Volunteer Rescue Squad President Paul Trible responded that they are turned away by paid staff when they answer calls. Sponaugle asked how many active volunteer EMT’s run calls now.  The response was there are twelve.  Another speaker then commented that the Board should already know how many there are, instead of asking when they are ready to vote on the ordinance.

The board tabled action on the ordinance to a future meeting.

To hear the first part of the report on this public hearing, visit our Facebook page or our website www.alleghenymountainradio.org

Story By

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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