State plan could reduce funding for emergency servics | CraigDailyPress.com

State plan could reduce funding for emergency servics

Change may reduce amount of control local groups have over way state-appropriated money is spent

By RYAN SHERIDAN

Daily Press writer

Cooperation and coordination with emergency services is critical in a rural area like Northwest Colorado, and a plan by the state to change the funding process could lead to financial problems and a loss of local control.

The Northwest Colorado Regional Emergency Medical and Trauma Advisory Council (RETAC) was organized in 2000 so that area emergency services could have regional planning and cooperation.

State legislation made $75,000 available for each of the eleven RETAC’s that cover Colorado, and pledged $15,000 per county to fund planning and programs for emergency services.

“This money is imperative to have so [emergency services] can function countywide,” said Charity Sjogren, leadership team member of the Craig Emergency Response Team. “Moffat County doesn’t have the money to front to us if the state money doesn’t show up.”

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The program was designed so that each region could plan for its’ own needs and requirements, and have the funding available for different programs and equipment. With the state funding, those decisions could be made at a local level.

A recent effort by the state health department to create a list of what the money can be spent on threatens to take away local control of how that money is used and put another financial burden on communities, according to Bob Licata, co-coordinator of the Northwest Colorado RETAC, which covers Moffat, Routt, Rio Blanco, Garfield and Mesa counties.

The plan created by the state might not reflect a particular area’s needs, removing the flexibility that regional organizations were originally built to offer, Licata said. RETAC members feel their authority to spend their portion of the state money is written into the state statutes.

Licata asked Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado (AGNC) to write a letter supporting the position that the state is required to provide up front funding and allow each regional RETAC the discretion on how the money is spent.

Routt County Commissioner Dan Ellison, who testified during the creation of the legislation that organized RETACs, supported Licata’s position.

“Colorado is largely a rural state, and if there is a large catastrophe, emergency services have to work together to handle it. We felt the state could not determine what was needed for each area as well as regional representatives,” he said. “I certainly think we ought to insist on the money up front, with a reasonable audit on a regular basis to assure money is spent responsibly.”

AGNC members voted to send a letter to the Governor supporting the RETACs, with copies sent to area legislators, Colorado Counties, Inc. and the director of the state health department.

The Colorado Attorney General’s office is examining the bill that created RETACs to determine what its language actually states.

The state controller’s office will address the how the funding is organized in the legislation at a meeting of the State Emergency Medical and Trauma Advisory Council on Nov. 15.

The funding to local RETACs is due July 1 of each year.

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