The Ely Times
Definitely a hot button in the county is the mutual aid agreement with fire sevices provided by White Pine County and the City of Ely. Several volunteer firefighter and EMS staff attended the regular county commission meeting.
During the meeting, the special fire commission meeting was opened up. During public comment, Commissioner Shane Bybee made a statement, “It was brought to my attention several weeks ago that subsequent to the resignation of Chief Regan, an employee was driving past Station 1 and the flags were flying upside down and that’s a national signal of distress and I find that rather disturbing.
“This is a county employee improperly using county materials for public display on county property and doing it on county time. I find that as one of the most gross acts of insubordination I’ve ever witness from a public employee and I would like to ask that beon the next agenda, an agenda item that directs our Fire District Manager to dismiss that employee.”
Ian Bullis placed on the Special Fire Commission agenda to approve the counter offer of general terms to the City of Ely for a contract/interlocal agreement to provide fire protection services within the White Pine County Fire Protection District.
Chairman of the Commission Richard Howe said, “That is something we definitely do not agree with. HR is doing an investigation”.
Tim Bunch, Human Resources manager, said the investigation has been done. Howe went on to agree it would be on the next agenda.
Stork explained how he weighed all of the pros and cons on whether not to vote on the agreement. He said, “I think it’s really important this entire board weighs in on this matter. I look at all the reasons why I shouldn’t vote, and it’s outweighed on why I should vote.”
Howe went on to explain how he was “jumped” regarding the agreement proposal to the city. He said, “I want to make one thing perfectly clear. I just got jumped a few minutes ago in something I have not even seen, before you start jumping somebody why don’t you find that facts first, and that’s happening a lot. I don’t have to take it and I’m not gonna take it right now, next time someone jumps me I’ll be jumping back, I don’t need to take that kind of accusation or insult.
“I have done this fire district thing for six years, I’m tired of it, I’ve been on this commission for six years. So don’t accuse, ask us or beat us down for something what we don’t know.”
Commissioner Ian Bullis spoke, how nothing is being taken lightly and several mentions of input have been considered. He said, “It’s my item on the agenda but this is not Ian Bullis’ grand scheme of how we fix this. This has been taken from several meetings.”
Bybee explained that there were a few changes and updates made to the agreement that addressed the number of personal and how apparatus was going to be handled. He said, “I’m comfortable that we addressed these issues, and we have an agreement to present to the city.”
Stork agreed to the agreement as well.
Commissioner Travis Godon asked Elizabeth Frances, county finance director, to speak on the adjustments financially to the fire district. She explained the costs and savings. A one-time startup cost of $100,000 would be paid to the city from the White Pine County Fire Protection District. Another $100,000 would be paid to the city for the provision of the services outlined in the agreement and the city would also receive $50,000 per year of EMS tax revenue provided to the county. It was also noted it would be a savings over $200,000 to the county if this agreement was approved.
Godon said, “I’m not a city guy, I’m not a county guy I just think we need to work together and I think that the majority of the people realize that. I think we should try to take our emotions out of this and try to find the best way to work together.”
Howe was the last to speak. He didn’t agree with it, and explained how he felt it was a complete dismantle to the fire district.
“There are several things, turning our fire district over to the city is not in the best of my interest,” he said. “I look at all this, I don’t see where there’s any benefit, it’s totally dismantling the fire district
“Everyone has their hand up, this should have been done during public comment.”
Howe continued to allow people to speak.
John Evans, Fire Chief of Cherry Creek for the last 30 years, said, “I’d like to know what the county is going to get out of this? It sounds all one sided.”
Bullis said, “Bill Ward has come to me continuously and spoke to me about a ISO rating impact, and I consulted an insurance consultant about this and the consensus is even though that’s not in this agreement, if Station 1 magically disappeared, there would be no impact.”
Eleanor Blackham, a White Pine County Fire and EMS volunteer, stood up and spoke saying, “You guys go through all this and whatever you want to do and you want to go to the city. What is going to happen? Where are you going to get all the volunteers?
“Because I guarantee you from the county they will not run with the city, they will not. So what are you going to do, beg for help? Because it ain’t going to happen, and don’t say we don’t have enough to cover all our areas, because believe me I run just about every call and I also fill in at the station when needed so that’s something you need to think about. Where you’re going to get your help.”
A divide is clearly noticeable. Questions arose on how the current situation disallows the city to respond to a call that’s right outside of city limits, closer for the city fire to respond, but the county has to respond to instead. A daycare that is located just outside of city limits, where children of all ages occupy during the day could be gravely affected if an emergency ever arose.
The motion was made to approve the item. The item was approved by Bullis, Godon, Stork and Bybee. Howe voted against it.