EMS Advisory board created

Robert Smith rsmith@pawhuskajournalcapital.com

Following a detailed but partially inconclusive discussion Monday, Osage County commissioners voted to create an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Advisory Board.

The commissioners did not settle on how many people should serve on the board, what their terms of office should be, or the identities of any potential members.

The discussion began with District 2 Commissioner Kevin Paslay, who chairs the commissioners, putting forward the names of three people who had agreed to serve. The three potential EMS Advisory Board members Paslay named are Kay Kelley, director of Osage County E911; April Thompson, director of Hominy EMS; and Pawhuska City Manager Larry Eulert.

“They will not have any duties other than to advise the county commissioners,” Paslay said. “Our goal is for everyone to have EMS service in the county.”

Paslay noted that Osage County pays considerable sums for emergency medical service in Barnsdall and Avant. He also commented that Shidler has had a volunteer EMS outfit that has done well, but is increasingly in jeopardy.

District 1 Commissioner Jerry Howerton said he is proud of the effort Shidler has made, but he has watched that community struggle.

District 3 Commissioner Darren McKinney clarified he was not being critical of the three people whose names Paslay had put forward, but he wanted to know if only three people were interested in serving on an EMS Advisory Board.

“What I would like to do is start this,” Paslay said, commenting that more people could be added.

Gary Lanham, a member of the Osage County Tourism Committee who is also a former Hominy city manager, complimented Paslay’s choices, saying the three potential board members represented “a pretty good blend.” Lanham also characterized Eulert as “a financial wizard” who would bring a steady fiscal eye to the group.

Randy Meyer, a board member for the Country Corner Fire Department, located in the Sperry area of south Osage County, voiced concern about a need for representation from the south end of the county.

District Attorney Rex Duncan briefly suggested topics that would need to be addressed, such as the length of terms of advisory board service, as well as expectations of the advisory board.

The discussion of an EMS Advisory Board followed an equally spirited and slightly more inconclusive discussion of whether to move the county E911 operation to space that the Sheriff’s Office would make available. The stated objective of such a move would be to improve coordination between the Sherriff’s Office and E911, improve service to the public and potentially realize financial efficiencies.

Sheriff Eddie Virden said he supports the move of E911 to Sheriff’s Office facilities.

E911 Director Kay Kelley said she agrees with the idea of making the move to realize efficiencies, but thinks the space available at this point is not large enough.

“Doing it right now is not a good idea,” Kelley said. This marks the second time in recent weeks the commissioners have discussed housing E911 at the S.O.

Kelley commented briefly Monday about the potential need to expand Sheriff’s Office facilities.

The commissioners were also presented with decidedly different perspectives from the Sheriff’s Office and the E911 office about how much benefit might be derived from working with INCOG, the Indian Nations Council of Governments, in regard to E911 mapping.

Virden suggested resolving the difference of perspectives by having INCOG send a representative or representatives to the next Osage County commissioners’ meeting to answer questions about E911 mapping.

Paslay said he thinks the consolidation of E911 with the Sheriff’s Office is something the commissioners need to act on for the good of the county.

“We’re going to need to step up,” Paslay said.

Virden expressed concern that the overall quality of Osage County’s emergency dispatching is not what it needs to be, in particular because training is needed to make it possible for dispatchers to give more detailed instructions to persons waiting on emergency personnel to arrive at their locations.

The commissioners tabled the question of moving the E911 office functions to the Sheriff’s Office until further information is available.