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Fire Districts 1, 3 and 8 call for elimination of Medic One Operations Chief

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Contract districts with Lewis County Medic One have called for the elimination of the position held by Operations Chief Grant Wiltbank, stating no further negotiations of their contracts will continue prior to such action.

Described in a letter dated Jan. 15 from Lewis County Fire Districts 1, in Onalaska, 3, in Mossyrock, and 8, in Salkum, the commissioners of these districts said they felt the position of Operations Chief, described in the letter as the "Director" of Medic One, was superfluous and should be removed from the agency entirely.

"It is the Districts' belief that this position is not affordable and unnecessary," stated the letter. "The governing board of Lewis County Medic One with the assistance of the board secretary is capable of managing the budgetary and contractual issues."

The letter further stated the districts are not interested in continuing to negotiate a possible solution to the agency's projected shortfall of roughly $270,000 for this year, according to the most recent estimates, until "affirmative action is taken on this matter."

When responding to the letter during the Jan. 20 meeting of the Medic One Board of Directors (made of representatives from Lewis County Fire Districts 2, in Toledo, 15, in Winlock, and Cowlitz-Lewis Fire District 20, in Vader and Ryderwood, who own the agency), Wiltbank did not specifically rebut any claims in the letter, but said he was willing to leave the matter in the hands of board members.

"The board can address that at their pleasure," he stated of the issue.

While the board did meet in executive session to discuss a complaint brought against an agency employee, among other issues that night, they made no decision to eliminate Wiltbank's position and offered no official response to the letter.

If Wiltbank's position were eliminated, it would reduce Medic's One's annual expenditures by $9,000, as the operations chief receives $750 per month, according to Medic One staff.

Even after having received the letter from the contract districts, board members were prepared to move forward with proposing a possible solution to the agency's financial concerns, which have revolved around decreasing revenues and increasing operations costs.

According to the proposal, all six districts served by Medic One would contribute all their patient revenues to the agency, as well as an even percentage of their levied fire and EMS funding to cover the remainder (an estimated 10 to 15 percent).

This would differ from the current system by which Districts 2, 15 and 20 contribute all their patient revenue and, as of late, some funding from their general budgets, while Districts 1, 3 and 8 are charged a per-transport fee of $630 and contribute no other funding.

Under the new system, contract districts would also share ownership of the agency, as well as gain representation on the board.

"That would be more of a level playing field," said Board Member Terry Williams, of District 20, stating the percentage of levied funds would have to be worked out as the system continued. "It's just a formula we're trying to come up with. Nothing is in stone."

But the idea of turning over all patient revenue did not sit well with representatives of the contract districts, with Commissioner George Kaech, of District 8, stating the loss of such revenues may help Medic One but would result in a deficit for his district.

"None of the three districts up here are planning on turning over our BLS (Basic Life Support) money," said Kaech of the contract districts. "It don't make no sense. We're still going to be short."

During discussions about the proposed revenue structure, representatives from the contract districts decided they were going to leave the meeting before the matter was resolved, causing those from member districts to voice concerns that contract districts were being less than respectful by simply walking out.

Kaech said he felt the meeting had gone on too long as the board had met in executive session for close to an hour-and-a-half before beginning public discussions, with other representatives expressing similar concerns.

Commissioner Anne Piper, also with District 8, added the board was aware of the expectations expressed by the contract districts in their letter, stating, "We're just not willing to waste our time discussing until certain things are done."

During the departure of the contract districts, the board did apologize for having taken so much of their time during executive session, and agreed it had been their choice to move the executive sessions to the top of the agenda.

Before all parties separated, it had been agreed they should hold a workshop sometime in the next week or so to hammer out their expectations, both in regard to the letter and the proposed revenue structure. The date and location of the workshop is expected to be scheduled in the coming days.

It was stated by Wiltbank after the contract districts departed, if they did not wish to contribute patient revenue, Medic One would need to charge around $1,181 per transport to make up for the difference, or reduce the level of service they are provided, which would also require approval from the union.

Contract district representatives have said in the past they would be unable to afford such high rates per transport, while they would also be unwilling to accept anything less than current levels of service.

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