County Working To Expand Water Rescue Plans

The recent drowning at Waconda Lake has brought more awareness for the need to expand and improve the rescue plans should another water rescue become necessary in the future. While they feel there is nothing they could have done to change the outcome of that situation many involved citizens are taking action to have definite protocol and procedure in place should such an incident take place in the future.

The Commissioners started talking about the need to expand water rescue plans at their September 4 meeting. As Commissioner Mike Cooper said at that time, "We have a 12,000-foot body of water in our county and thousands upon thousands of people use those facilities every year. We are fortunate not to have had more accidents take place but we (all those who assisted with that water rescue operation) agreed that we (Mitchell County) needs to have a disaster plan in place. In particular a water rescue plan."

"We would like to see a Disaster Board put back in place and create a rescue team under the direction of the EMS department." Cooper said he was asking the County Commissioners to actively assist in getting this done.

Since that time, the County Commissioners along with EMS Director Ed Debesis, Mitchell County Sheriff, Doug Daugherty, Emergency Management Director, Scott Davies and many other concerned citizens have started the ball rolling to get a Quick Response Team organized.

Commissioner Cooper was in charge of the Mitchell County Commission meeting this week since Chairman Tom Claussen was ill and unable to attend the meeting.
Tom Deneke, Mitchell County Rescue Squad spokesman, came to the meeting to request that they be allowed to change the name of their organization to the "Mitchell County Fire, Land, and Water Rescue Squad."

Deneke said they are in the process of expanding and adding more members to their organization and as they proceed with this plan they have quite a few changes coming up. They have increased their membership but still need two more members to complete their squad. They have six applicants for these two positions. He explained that by making this change they will be eligible to apply for more grants to be able to receive funding for more equipment they feel will be necessary if they are to be successful in this change.

At the present time, the Rescue Squad budget is listed as a line item of $33,000 under the Emergency Medical Service's budget but are asking to have their budget split out from the EMS budget as a separate entity. While both Commissioners were in agreement with this plan and pledged to work toward this change, the county's budget is already set up for this coming year and they will have to wait until 2014 to make that change.

EMS Director Ed Debesis was present at that time and was asked if he thought this was a good idea. Debesis said he thought it would be a good thing and with the word fire involved they should be able to receive more grant money. Stating that they are sure Chairman Claussen would be in agreement with this action, Commissioner's
Cooper and Palen went ahead and voted to approve the name change of the Mitchell County Rescue Squad to the "Mitchell County Fire, Land, and Water Rescue Squad." A five-minute executive meeting was held with the Commissioners along with Deneke and Debesis present. No decisions were made during the session.

EMS Director, Ed Debesis reported his department had a busy month in September. Their total ambulance runs for the month were 64, which are up from last month. They have made 440 runs for the year, however this is down from last years total for 472 runs by this date. Debesis said they are having trouble collecting some of their fees even with County Attorney Mark Noah's help in trying to collect. They are also still having trouble with Cawker City people walking into the station unannounced instead of calling 911, Debesis said.

Debesis, as Chairman of the Water Rescue Team, reported they had a meeting last week and are working on trying to get this set up. They have eight boats what will be either rescue boats and/or backup boats in times of emergencies. They have eight divers at this time and are in the application process of trying to add more. Three of these are certified divers. They voted to leave Plainville as their initial call contact diving team for right now during this process. He is not sure when they will open up their application process for approval on the boat side of the process. At the present time they are setting up their policies and procedures for the boats that will be involved. The boats will have to have specialized equipment on board and will be rejected if they don't qualify.

Debesis was also named Chairman of the Disaster Board with Emergency Management Director, Scott Davies as Vice Chairman. He is working with County Clerk, Chris Treaster, on an overall disaster plan. They have the Law Enforcement, County Health Department, Emergency Medical Staff, the County Commissioners, the Road and Bridge Department and the Ministerial representative involved in this plan, he said. Commissioner Cooper asked Clerk Treaster if the county's liability insurance covers volunteers who are acting on behalf of the county during an emergency. She will check into it.

Commissioner Palen announced the SVED board has selected Heather Hartman as the new Economic Development Director for Mitchell County. She was selected from the 15 applicants that applied since it was felt that she was the most qualified and is already familiar with the community and the county residents.

Commissioner Cooper said they received a Field Sales Report from Blue Cross/Blue Shield representative Charles Krull that they get every year. He said Mitchell County would be receiving an almost a 2 percent decrease in their premiums due to their insurance use record this past year plus they won't have to use the 10 percent extra that was budgeted. This bodes well for our county employees, he said. The County allow for a 10 percent raise in insurance premiums in their budget. Charles Krull, BCBS representative informed them that Mitchell County would be receiving almost a 2 percent decrease in their premiums due to their insurance use record this last year. This bodes well for our county employees, he said.

Justin Murdock, representing the Cloud County Solid Waste Department, discussed their plan to apply for a Kansas Department of Health and Environmental Department grant that would allow Cloud County to build a special room in their recycling facility to store solid household hazardous waste that need to be disposed of safely. The grant would be for one hundred to one hundred and fifty dollars with a 40 percent in kind match.

Representatives from KDHE visited their landfill and transfer station and proposed that since Cloud, Mitchell, and Republic County are the only three counties left in the state that do not have such a facility available to haul to he might want to participate in this plan. If they can get all three counties to agree they could keep the rate per person per month at about a 25-cent charge.

Murdock's proposal was that Mitchell County Residents bring their items to their recycling facility. These items would include such things as house paint cans, aerosol cans, unused yard solvents, unused farm chemicals and sprays. They would then classify it and store it in sealed containers to be picked up.

Commissioner Cooper said they might be more interested in this plan if Cloud had a means of collecting the items here. He couldn't see Mitchell County residents running to Concordia with a few cans of unused paint. He would also want to check and see how many residents of this county would use this service because he wouldn't want the majority of our residents pay for a service only a few would use. The Commissioners will have to find out more about this plan but agreed to e-mail information with Murdock and see what comes of it.

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