MOUNT VERNON — Members of the Knox County Emergency Management Board discussed some possible changes in the future role of the Knox County 9-1-1 Board at the EMA meeting Thursday afternoon. This discussion comes after 9-1-1 Board members contacted the EMA Board about setting up a joint meeting next week to discuss the boards cooperative roles with each other.
During the June 3 meeting of the 9-1-1 Board, some board members expressed concern about the lack of their board’s involvement in personnel decisions in the EMA office, since the EMA director’s salary comes from both boards, and the position oversees both EMA and 9-1-1 in the county.
The joint meeting has been scheduled for July 2 to discuss issues surrounding the accountability of the director’s position. During the 9-1-1 Board meeting, board member Rick Lanuzza, president of the Knox County Fire and EMS Chiefs Association, said he felt former director Marie Blubaugh had been disciplined by the EMA board for issues that were 9-1-1 related.
Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Mavis, who sits on both boards, said he felt it was the obligation of a member of either board to speak up about problems.
“If there is something found or discovered that’s not right, I think we should do something about that,” Mavis said. “If somebody sees something wrong, they should say it out loud.” He also pointed out both boards fall under the supervision of the county commissioners.
Retired EMA Director/9-1-1 Coordinator Larry Hatton, currently in contract with the county as a consultant to newly hired director Brian Hess and deputy director Matthew Sturgeon, said 9-1-1 boards are not the norm around the state of Ohio.
“9-1-1 boards are a thing of the past around Ohio,” Hatton said. He explained in most other counties while a technical advisory board for 9-1-1 still exists, the operations of 9-1-1 fall under the direction of the county commissioners.
“I’m not against change,” Mavis said. “We have to determine what works.”
Sturgeon was formally introduced at the meeting. He explained his EMA background and work as a firefighter/paramedic.
Hatton said Sturgeon had come highly recommended by Medina County EMA Director Buck Adams. “He [Sturgeon] does a good job and he does a good job quick,” Hatton said.
Sturgeon said he looked forward to getting to speak with board members during the coming days. He has begun some office work, but officially will begin the job July 6.
Hess gave a short account of each of four incidents he has responded to in the county in recent months as interim director, including two vehicle crashes with hazardous material implications, the large brush fire this spring near Centerburg, and the anhydrous ammonia tanker crash outside Fredericktown, April 12.
The board approved a motion to allow Hess to seek bids for contracting work inside the EMA office to separate office space for the deputy director and the EMA office staff. A maximum amount of $4,500 was approved for building a new wall and installing light fixtures.
Hess said the construction costs would come out of the existing budget. Stockberger said EMA has complied with the 9 percent general fund cuts requested of county agencies by the commissioners June 15.
The board also approved vehicle repairs for the EMA Ford Expedition.
Hess said he would like to take a more active role in school lockdown drills this year. He said it was a good opportunity to network with school officials and familiarize them with the resources EMA can provide in an emergency.
Crisis communication training is being discussed by county agencies including EMA. Hess said his office will be administrating the training soon to interested individuals.
Knox County Assistant Prosecutor Chip McConville provided a new Memorandum of Understanding regarding the hazmat truck and trailer which the county signed over to the Mount Vernon Fire Department.
The board moved to approve the memorandum and it was signed at the meeting by board president Allen Stockberger. It will now be sent to the city for approval. “The grant people were unhappy about the Memorandum of Understanding,” McConville said of the past agreement. “This should satisfy them.” The equipment was paid for with federal homeland security grant dollars.
McConville also prepared a new official policy for recorded phone calls, which the board also approved. All calls made to the EMA number are recorded for public safety and disaster response purposes.
Under the new policy, the EMA director is the only person permitted to review recorded conversations on the EMA number, and only for purposes of public records requests, storage and retention, and other acceptable uses such as emergency response and investigation.