County approves EMS post

Sheriff says commissioners had decided on issue 'long ago'

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In the midst of a debate Monday on the pros and cons of hiring an emergency medical services coordinator for western Moffat County, Commissioner Les Hampton decided enough had been said.

"The state has handed the commissioners responsibility for this and while we're discussing it, someone could be out there bleeding," he said.

At that moment he made a motion to hire a full-time EMS coordinator for Maybell.

Moffat County Commissioner T. Wright Dickinson seconded the motion. Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos was not present at the meeting.

Moffat County Sheriff Buddy Grinstead has been one of the most outspoken opponents of hiring an EMS coordinator in Maybell, an issue that has been hotly debated since last summer. The sheriff has said that it was a promise of employment by the Moffat County commissioners to Karen Burley, a longtime Maybell ambulance volunteer and sole applicant for the $35,000 position.

Last week, Grinstead submitted a proposal to the commissioners that he thought was a more all-encompassing plan, addressing how he thought fire, law enforcement and EMS services could be improved in Moffat County.

Grinstead also expressed his disapproval of the plan to hire an EMS coordinator in his four-page proposal.

Hampton said Monday that he did not think Grinstead's proposal addressed the issue at hand.

"In this proposal, he speaks of fire 28 times and EMS 15 times," he said. "I had to read through it five times to get the EMS information I wanted. His proposal falls short. There are no answers to the EMS concerns in Dinosaur."

Hampton cited many concerns he had with Grinstead's plan. But his main argument was that Grinstead's proposal, which was an outline of what could be done in the next eight to 10 years, did not address the problem at hand -- a need for improved emergency medical coverage in western Moffat County.

"We're looking at someone who can go to work in the next 10 to 15 days who can provide a long-term solution," he said.

Hampton laid out a map of Moffat County with a north and south line running between Craig and Maybell.

Right now, the eastern part of the county is covered, he said, while two thirds of the county is not.

"We need coverage out here," he said, pointing to the western half of the county. "Part of my vision is in the next 12 to 24 months we will have a transport agency in Dinosaur."

However, during a radio broadcast this morning, Hampton characterized the hiring as an "immediate, short-term" solution.

Grinstead did not attend Monday's meeting.

Afterward, he said he was not surprised at the commissioners' decision.

"I wasn't there because I knew this was a formal procedure in approving what had already been approved long ago," he said from his office Monday afternoon.

But commissioner-elect Darryl Steele, who was sworn into office today, was on hand to voice his opposition to the hiring.

"The Maybell Ambulance Service is very close to my heart," he said of the service he helped create 30 years ago. "We need to slow this thing down a bit and get everyone in the same room to talk this out. I would like to see the community and the entire Maybell service in on this meeting."

Steele said if vacation time is factored into the position, there will still be times when coverage is not available in the Maybell area.

He cited Grinstead's plan, in which it was proposed that off-duty EMTs from the service in Craig be used to cover the area when volunteer EMTs are not available.

"This plan would provide more coverage for less money than what you're talking about to put this full-time person there," he said.

Steele said he also was concerned about what the impact of hiring a full-time person might have on the volunteer service.

"If you put someone in Maybell on a full-time basis, you're going to hurt the volunteerism in Maybell," he said. "You (a volunteer) will have to go on a run with someone making $17 an hour while you're not making anything."

But Moffat County Commissioner T. Wright Dickinson maintained that the position was created at the request of the Maybell Ambulance Service last summer.

He said another key component of the position is to help Dinosaur meet the necessary requirements of becoming its own transport agency.

"Dinosaur has enough people with training," he said. "What they don't have is the knowledge and the ability to run an ambulance service."

Hampton and Dickinson said all alternatives have been investigated for how to assist the western half of the county, and said they thought they had developed a good solution.

"I respect your opinion," Dickinson told Steele, who replaced Dickinson today. "But this was an issue that came before this board. It's this board's responsibility to solve this problem and I believe we're doing it in a reasonable and prudent way."

After the meeting, Grinstead said he did not think it was coincidence that the position was filled the day before Steele, who opposes the hiring, was sworn in.

"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why this was done the day before Darryl takes office," he said.

Josh Nichols can be reached at 824-7031 or jnichols@craigdailypress.com.

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