Today is my mother’s birthday. I’ll stop short of giving an age because we all know that counting stopped, but it is a benchmark one that makes you reflect over the years. We have a great relationship thanks to her angelic tolerance rather than my penchant for always doing the right thing.
If there were fights in the past, she would sternly let me know where I went wrong but had a remarkable ability to both support me in that decision and to let me try on my own.
When the outcome of these paths was successful, I would be quick to take the credit, yet most of it belonged to her as an ever-present voice of reason and a silent supporter despite reservations.
The emergency County Commission meeting yesterday to discuss the transition of EMS integration under Fire Services had an example of a silent, supportive maternal figure. In this metaphor, Naturecoast EMS is the mother. This can sound like a stretch at first, but they have been taking care of us for two decades, and now with muted reluctance, send us off on our own.
The true purpose of the meeting was to extend a declared state of emergency that allows the county administrator a bit more authority and streamlines the approval process on spending with the chairman. This is often seen during a hurricane and is not an unusual request especially given the abbreviated timeline of two weeks to complete the transition. State law requires that the Board meets in person every seven days to extend the emergency declaration which is what the Commissioners did unanimously in the half hour meeting.
Three types of information were presented in the meeting: the good, the pending and the troubling.
The good is that the transition overall is progressing toward being a success. About double the applicants needed to fill the new paramedic and EMT positions have reached out with preference given to Naturecoast EMS employees who meet the qualifications. The county is even working to ensure they have uninterrupted health insurance coverage - a difficult industry to navigate during a move like this. Much praise was and should be given to county administrative staff, Naturecoast EMS and Fire Services for their tireless effort so far.
The pending information involved a couple of unresolved matters that will be addressed in Tuesday’s upcoming meeting. This centers around how to fund a computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system. Commissioner Jeff Kinnard thinks the county needs to revisit the source of funding, which is currently split among three entities including using the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, and will certainly be a point of contention soon.
The county is working to find jobs for Naturecoast EMS employees who worked in fleet and other positions not directly related to the front lines but who also deserve help after having their livelihoods abruptly ended by the county’s choice.
Lastly there’s the troubling information. During the public input portion, the attorney representing Naturecoast EMS was the first to speak. She said that despite the fact that the procedure through which a vote was called could be questioned in court and despite the fact that the grounds the county was giving Naturecoast EMS for contract termination would also lead to a lengthy court battle if challenged, her client’s wishes were to work with the county to make this transition possible.
The reaction from the Commission was one not often seen when someone levies accusations, particularly ones as potentially consequential as those, from the podium. Chairman Scott Carnahan gave her as much time as she needed to make her speech. All the Commissioners heaped praise on Naturecoast EMS for their willingness to work with the county so far. This change in demeanor from previous accusations (such as having enough votes to do whatever they wanted or the threat of a mass exodus of employees if more funding wasn’t given) was striking compared to past meetings.
To Naturecoast EMS’ credit, the chairwoman of their board spoke of their willingness to continue to work with the county and CEO Scott Baxter spoke briefly only to correct one bit of information but not in a combative way.
They were present, though silent for the most part, resigned to let the county blaze its own path even if the choices of how they got there were troublesome. They had taken care of us as we grew and now sent us on our way despite personally wanting to hold on longer. Thank you, Naturecoast EMS.