The Saratoga Sun -

SCWEMS to face changes


The May 12 meeting of the South Central Wyoming Emergency Medical Services (SCWEMS) Joint Powers Board (JPB) resulted in a mixed bag of piecemeal progress and stalemate on long term issues the service faces. With terms expiring for five of the seven JPB members on July 1, the current board will have one more chance to rectify these issues at what may be their last meeting together on June 6.

In the words of JPB chair Ken Drain, “Some entities have screwed up – big time.” Drain was referring to the municipal signatories to the JPB agreement governing SCWEMS – the communities of Hanna, Saratoga, Elk Mountain, Encampment, Medicine Bow, and Riverside.

When these municipalities were drawing up the JPB agreement, Drain said, they decided to stagger the terms of the seven JPB representatives, with two members serving a year term, three serving two year terms and two serving three year terms. In this way, the JPB was designed to retain some institutional memory, because its members would cycle out gradually instead of en masse.

Somewhere along the line, it seems, that rotational system became unbalanced. As of July 1, the only members of the current board whose term will not have expired will be Stephanie Colman, who represents Elk Mountain, and Donna Pipher, who is the county-wide representative for the JPB. “It’s ugly because the experience is walking out the door,” Drain said of the situation.

Kelly Ralston, the JPB representative from Riverside, appeared to be less concerned. “I find this less negative, as a whole, than not having term limits,” Ralston said. Ralston went on to emphasize the need for new blood and fresh ideas, and concluded, “We’re a stale, stagnant board. Period.”

With several board members echoing Drain’s concerns, Elk Mountain Mayor Kevin Colman suggested a possible fix for the dilemma. K. Colman’s idea was to revisit the JPB agreement and reconfigure the terms in order to prevent the mass exodus of the current members. Colman also suggested that the reconfigured agreement “take out the one clause that says that elected officials can’t serve on this board.” He said this may bring more people into the mix for a job that needs doing.

K. Colman’s plan would require the unanimous agreement of the signatory municipalities. Following this, the Wyoming Attorney General would have to sign off on the agreement’s legality. K. Colman said he would approach other municipalities about making these amendments at the next Carbon County Council of Governments Meeting May 18 in Encampment.

A raise for SCWEMS ambulance director Heidi Sifford (who was at a training and absent from the meeting) likewise had members at loggerheads. “I think that our ambulance director is putting in more than her 40 hours a week anyway, and if we want to keep her and to maintain an ambulance director, we have to pay them to do it,” Ralston said. The Riverside representative suggested a $500 per month raise for Sifford, effective July 1. Ralston’s motion was blocked by a single nay vote from S. Colman, who said “I think the money could be used more effectively.” S. Colman said she thought the money could be better spent on station managers, among other things.

Action was likewise delayed on a proposed assistant to the ambulance director position. At a previous meeting, the JPB had set aside funds to pay the proposed assistant $15 an hour for 20 hours a week of work. Differing notions of what the assistant’s job description should encompass prevented the JPB from moving forward with posting the assistant position, however.

On a bright note, SCWEMS will be getting eight new radios next week. The new radios will be dispensed to the volunteers who make the most runs at each SCWEMS station.

The service also elected to purchase a new support vehicle, choosing the least costly option of three submitted bids. The vehicle is a 2015 Jeep Patriot 4x4 with 11,000 miles on it. The jeep costs $17,416 - lower-priced than the roughly $23,500 2015 Kia Sportage and $26,800 2016 Ford Escape which were also on offer.

The next SCEWMS JPB meeting will be held 6:30 p.m. June 6, at the Elk Mountain SCWEMS station.


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