Moffat commissioners set 9-person committee to sort out future of EMS

Moffat County Courthouse in Craig, Colorado on Jan. 4, 2022.
Photo by Billy Schuerman / For the Craig Press

Editor’s note: This story has been updated from an earlier version to accurately describe the type of responders that are in DInosaur.

The committee who will help decide the future of EMS in Moffat County was announced today by the county commissioners.

In total, nine people from across the county will come together to organize the best way to move forward after voters resoundingly rejected a proposed mill levy on November’s ballot. That measure — called Measure 6A — would have created a special taxing district to fund countywide EMS. 6A’s counterpart, measure 6B, would have created a five-person board to oversee the taxing district’s allocations, but that was voted down, as well.

“While a lot of work went into the first attempt to secure a plan and operation for countywide EMS, the ballot attempt was unsuccessful,” a statement from the Board of County Commissioners reads. “To ensure a balanced approach, the BOCC accepted interest from community members to assist in the process and thoughtfully appointed the following community members to move the process forward to investigate the best way to ensure continuous coverage to all of the citizens of Moffat County to the best of our ability.”

The commissioners assembled the new committee based on recommendations from stakeholder groups, including Memorial Regional Hospital, Craig EMS, the Maybell Ambulance and rural parts of the county.

Incorporated into the group are both proponents and challengers of the previous 6A and 6B, who bring diverse backgrounds to the committee, from administrative backgrounds to paramedics, from both rural parts of the county and from the more populated areas.

  • Darryl Steele — who has a long history with providing EMS to rural parts of the county — will represent Maybell. Steele was one of the leaders of the Citizens Against 6A and 6B group.
  • Karen Burley, a longtime EMS administrator, will also serve on the committee. Burley was one of Steele’s primary cohorts in the campaign against 6A and 6B.
  • T. Wright Dickinson will represent the Browns Park area to the west. Dickinson was the third main member, with Steele and Burley, of the anti-HSD group.
  • Becky Fournier will represent MRH.
  • Nichole Becker — who ran as a potential board member under measure 6B — will represent the town of Dinosaur.
  • Sean Durham will serve as the ​​Hamilton area representative and bring expertise as a CPA to the table.
  • Neilene Folks, who has over a decade of family practice experience, will serve as ​​medical regulation representative.
  • Dan Bingham, former EMS operator, represents the city of Craig as a whole and will serve as a co-chair.
  • Justin Doubrava, paramedic and EMS manager for MRH EMS, will serve as co-chair alongside Bingham.

Commissioner Melody Villard said that anyone who expressed interest in participating but was not on the committee list is still encouraged to communicate with their respective representative. The committee exists in order to put progress in motion and to present a potential solution to the commissioners when one is ready, she said.

“This is a public process,” Villard said. “They’re welcome to come to those meetings (and) they’re welcome to give input. I know some will have input at the beginning and then kind of be done for a while. Some might not have input until toward the end, but it’s not going to be a closed process at all. This is just the nine that continue to move the ball forward.”

Commissioner Tony Bohrer added that if a member only wants his or her way and refuses to compromise in the future, the commissioners may remove them in order to keep the group moving forward. He said that it shouldn’t be a one-sided decision — no matter which direction that the group feels like is the way.

“I know that this is all volunteer, but there’s no sense putting somebody in a group that’s not going to work well with others, that’s not going to listen to both sides and only want to have one-sided conversations. It just doesn’t,” Bohrer said. “It defeats the purpose of the whole thing.”

Commissioners will not attend the committee’s meetings, but once a package or plan is put together, they will be ready to receive it, and the process can continue after that. The first step for that group will be to gather and analyze data of how the current system of EMS in the county is working and move from there.

There has never been a unified EMS service that covers the entire county. There are separate groups — who all receive some funding from the county — that cover most of the land, but 6A and 6B were the first attempts to bring them all together. Right now, MRH covers EMS in the city of Craig, but board members for the hospital have been clear that the $600,000 deficit that ambulance services creates in the hospital budget is not sustainable. Possible solutions before 6A and 6B were to cut hours of EMS provided by the hospital, or to cut the service altogether.

At a workshop in December, commissioners told EMS stakeholders that the county cannot afford to completely take over emergency services — especially with the top taxpayers in the county closing by 2030 as coal producers are regulated into closure.

Right now, there is no ambulance in the town of Dinosaur, though one would have been purchased with funds from the proposed tax levy. Emergency medical responders usually wait for an ambulance to come from Vernal, Utah, which can take as much as 45 minutes or more.

The committee has not yet scheduled its first meeting. They will likely use county facilities to meet, and, since most of the board members have day jobs, their meetings will most likely be in the evening.

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