Board invites officials to weigh in on EMS

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(Daily Bee file photo/LYNNE HALEY) EMS personnel and the medical transport crew load one crash survivor into the helicopter in a mock incident at Sandpoint High School.

SANDPOINT — Bonner County commissioners are checking the pulse of fire and law enforcement officials as they ponder contracting out EMS services.

The board is hosting a public meeting at 9 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 18, at the Bonner County Administration Building. Law enforcement and fire district officials have been invited to the meeting.

“We understand that there are many who would like to give their constructive input regarding the future of Bonner County EMS, we invite you to do so at this meeting,” Bonner County Deputy Clerk Jessi Webster said in the meeting announcement.

The move comes after the departure of former EMS Chief Bob Bussey and the hiring of Jeff Lindsey as the interim chief. Lindsey is the president of Boundary Volunteer Ambulance Service Inc., which owns North Valley EMS.

County commissioners turned down an EMS services proposal Selkirk Fire Rescue & EMS and have signaled their intention to award the contract to North Valley, a move which rattled current Bonner EMS employees and caused them to wonder if they would still have jobs. Others were concerned they would lose their seniority within the organization, jeopardize their Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho benefits or push back their retirement dates.

Commissioner Dan McDonald attempted to mollify those fears during a meeting with EMS personnel last month.

McDonald told the group that the commission has been reviewing its operations countywide to determine if improvements could be made.

“How do we do it better? How do we do it faster and how do we do it more efficiently?” McDonald asked.

McDonald said the county considered fire-based EMS and a modified fire-based EMS before settling on the contract option with North Valley.

“We’ve done months of research on this. We’re looking for the very best model,” said McDonald.

Under the county’s plan, it would keep its ambulances and stations and hold back some of the EMS tax revenue for their upkeep. North Valley would been overseen by a board of directors which will include a county commissioner.

“We don’t want commissioners running it. Quite frankly, commissioners running it is what screwed this thing up to begin with,” said McDonald.

Current EMS employees would have to apply for jobs at North Valley.

“The most disturbing comments I’ve heard though are, ‘There’s no guarantees. We don’t have a guarantee of a job.’ I don’t have a guarantee of a job,” McDonald said.

McDonald added that employees with solid performance records should have no concerns about being re-hired and that compensation packages will be commensurate.

“We’re going to manage this for success. We’re not going to manage it for failure,” he said.

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.

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