Maybell residents lobby to reinstate EMS position

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MAYBELL -- Six volunteer emergency medical technicians told Moffat County commissioners Monday night that their department will be less effective without a paid coordinator.

Emergency Medical Services Coordinator Karen Burley's job will end March 31 due to budget cuts the commission made to balance the county's 2004 budget. Commissioners scheduled an evening workshop to discuss the impact. About 25 people attended.

The EMTs questioned commissioners how they could proceed with technical administrative duties without a paid administrator or balance the department's budget and keep up with state medical requirements. Without a full-time paid position, only one EMT is available to answer emergency calls during the day, EMTs told the commission.

The potential of not being able to cover a multi-person accident or simultaneous ambulance calls makes the EMTs nervous.

"Our service doesn't run well without this happening, we need someone in charge," said EMT Sherrie Johnson. "We don't need a baby sitter; we need to have someone to help keep us going."

Commissioners cut Burley's position late last year to balance the county's total budget shortfall of $1.6 million. The position is slated to expire at the end of March for a county savings of $20,000 this year.

Burley was hired last year, but she said she had been already doing many of managerial duties during her previous 13 years of volunteer service with Maybell Ambulance.

Commissioners said they would scrutinize the budget further and work with the EMTs to provide some compensation for the lost position, but they refused to commit on reinstating the position. They expect to make a decision in the next couple weeks.

Burley was paid $40,00 a year, including fringe benefits, as Emergency Medical Services coordinator.

Commissioner Marianna Raft-opoulos said the main push for the position resulted from a citizen's death in Dinosaur a few years ago that EMTs there felt could have been avoided if they had been offered more training.

Burley was also charged with managing Dinosaur EMTs.

"After that, people said 'do something' -- that is why we had to do something,'" Raftopoulos said. "At the start of this, it's been controversial but since we put the position in here there hasn't been a glitch or else we'd hear about it."

Commissioners received a verbal finger wagging for cutting Burley's position amid pleas to reinstate it.

"You would all be penny-wise and pound-foolish if you didn't come out and fund this position," said former commissioner T. Wright Dickinson. Dickinson lives in the 2,700 square miles covered by the Maybell Ambulance.

"It would be the worst thing in the county if you lost this woman," he said. "What I think you should do is put that money back into the budget."

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or ahatten@craigdailypress.com.

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