KayLynn Roberts-McMurray
The city and county’s mutual aid agreement expired on June 30, meaning the city won’t be responding to emergency services outside the city limits.

The Ely Times

Last week’s Ely City Council meeting had an agenda item that seems to be a contentious topic for the past year or more.

The Fire/EMS mutual aid agreement between the city and White Pine County fire and EMS services expired this past Saturday on June 30.

This issue isn’t anything new. In July of 2016, the city council and county commission tendered the idea of a mutual aid agreement when the agreement the two had an agreement for expired in June of 2016, halting emergency services outside of city limits.

In an Ely Times article dated July 22, 2016, commissioner Gary Perea said, “The agreement will make both the city and county fire services stronger and will benefit the city as well as the county.” Commissioner Richard Howe said, “Everyone wants a mutual aid agrement.”

At this particular time, the discussion of $6,000 a month to be paid to the city was too much but they were willing to sit down and negotiate.

An agreement was created, and in August 2017, it became the topic of heated discussion, and the contention lasted for several months with changes, and modifications.

In February of 2018, the city council discussed an agenda item to propose White Pine County to pay the City $72,000 annually.  Councilman Tony DeFelice asked at this particular meeting if they should set it higher? No action was taken and the item was tabled.

Now, at last weeks meeting Councilman Kurt Carson expresses his thoughts appearing to be disheartened by a repeat of the whole situation just two years later.

“Well here we are again, this had nothing to do with a turf war or  anything to do with the county really, it just simply expired.  Now would be a good time to send White Pine County a letter that this contract is no longer good and we will not be going outside city limits anymore.”

On June 29, City Administrator Robert Switzer sent a letter to County Commission Chairman Richard Howe. The letter explained that pursuant to the city council meeting, the City of Ely Fire Department would no longer be responding to emergency calls for fire/medical services outside the incorporated city limits of Ely effective June 30.

It’s hard to tell what exactly is going on between the city and the county elected officials when it comes to this agrement, but the contention appears to be trickling down to the fire and ems staff.

It’s obvious that a divide has been created at the commission meetings with the commissioners when it comes to Fire District agenda items and voting.

Most of the votes end with a 3-2 vote. Perea, Carol McKenzie and Howe voting one way, and Shane Bybee and Steve Stork voting another way.

The Ely City Fire Department hosted a firefighters conference last week and it was reported that several county fire and EMS personnel sat on the lawn nearby watching the training taking place.

None of them were registered to participate in the training, training that focused on life saving skills, and drills. Registration was only $25 a person, and no requests to attend the training were ever made.

Howe was contacted and gave the following statement “I felt like they knew this was coming and they didn’t ask to extend it, it was a complete surprise to me and felt like I was blindsided.”

Howe continues on to mention that he felt like they could have gotten together, sat down and worked something out.

Carson said at the city council meeting, “We reached out to the county and no one responded.”

Stork had a different take on the issue. He said, “It is truly unfortunate for the people of White Pine County. We all travel our highways…at some point, we may need to depend on the City of Ely to be effective and save lives in certain situations.  Back in February, we modified the just expired agreement to satisfy concerns raised by the Sheriff regarding his ability to dispatch the City of Ely Fire/EMS outside of the City of Ely.

“We resolved his concerns but I don’t know if it changed the dispatch practices of not sending the most responsive and closest agency.”

Stork goes after giving his disclosure that his brother Pat Stork works for the Ely City Fire Department says “I remember the city approached the county commission shortly thereafter to discuss a long term inter-local agreement at a proposed rate of $170,000 annually. It was the opinion of the majority, that the city’s request was too high.

“We chose not to counter the offer even though we knew this temporary agreement was set to expire at the end of the fiscal year. It’s sad that we are going to have to lose more lives and property before we are forced to the table once again.”

For now, until the item is placed on an agenda by either the council or commission the City of Ely will not be responding outside of city limits.