Ambulance service hot topic at Dubois Town Council Meeting Wednesday evening

By June Bonasera, Business Editor,

(Dubois, Wyo.)-A larger than normal audience of twenty five residents and 2 members of the media attended last night’s regularly scheduled Dubois Town Council meeting. The majority of attendees came to voice concerns about EMT staffing deficiencies, a dwindling pool of volunteers and the quality of ambulance service in Dubois.

At the April 10th Dubois Town Council meeting, a report was presented by Sandy Lahr, a Registered Nurse (RN) and Dubois Medical Clinic board member, listing concerns and recommending the formation of an ad hoc committee to examine the concerns and propose solutions regarding “observed or perceived inadequate emergency ambulance service coverage in Dubois and surrounding area[s]”.

A meeting was scheduled last Thursday evening at the Dubois ambulance service house to address the concerns outlined in the April 10th report. In attendance were members of the committee, comprised of Sandy Lahr, Jeff Milton, Ann Green, Craig Abel, Margaret Wells and Bruce John Thomson, along with Mayor Twila Blakeman, Fremont County Ambulance (FCA) Director Lauri Wempen, division supervisor Todd Smith, and part time staff Dan Cox. Meeting attendees also included FCA captain Brian Hutchins, Dubois volunteer Harold Albright and former volunteer Cyndi Dugan. A history of the FCA was presented by Wempen and information about budget, proposed funding, and options for the addition of paid full time employees for Dubois and other communities in Fremont County. Committee members were invited to ask questions and offer opinion on solutions to concerns expressed.

At Wednesday night’s Town Council meeting, an agenda item titled” Fremont County Ambulance” under the category of “Audience” was listed. Mayor Blakeman advised Lauri Wempen that she would be given a total of 20 minutes to make a presentation and that audience members would be given a total of 20 minutes to comment and/or ask questions for Wempen to respond to. Wempen gave an overview of the issues of concern by FCA and community members, including dwindling volunteers, and presented an 8 page handout in the effort of saving time which answered a number of questions about ambulance coverage in the community, training requirements, how the FCA is funded, how the Fremont County Commission could pay for an increase in staffing, what the FCA has done to recruit volunteers, FCA coverage, staffing and volume of calls. Wempen said the Fremont County Ambulance budget would be discussed with the county commissioners on May 14th .

Audience members were then invited to ask questions and voice their concerns. Several audience members were current or former ambulance, Fire Department and/or Search and Rescue volunteers. Daniel  Nowlin  stated that there was a need for recruits with training in advanced care given the fact that by the time EMT’s respond to a Dubois call from Lander or Riverton, the ‘golden hour’ for treatment can already be gone. A concern about the need for qualified drivers was expressed by several in the audience and by a council member, as well as information about 2-3 qualified potential candidates who had just attended the Cody Fire School. Concerns about radio frequencies and difficulty communicating on radio channels were also expressed.

Jan Glassow, a former Dubois EMT-B then read a prepared statement to the audience. She stated, “I believe that our Fremont County EMS leadership has a lack of situational awareness.” She gave an account of her personal experience working with other crew members in Dubois and Crowheart before making the following accusations. “ Lauri and Todd both lead by fear and intimidation creating a hostile learning and working environment,” she said. “They show a complete lack of respect for full time and volunteer medics. They are pretty much bullies. People have been afraid to come forward with complaints for a very long time now.” She also said, “Their lack of leadership has put a burden on our other emergency responders, our deputy sheriffs and volunteer firefighters have been asked to help on calls and drive on what is becoming a frequent basis.” Glassow then made recommendations for solutions to the problems identified in her statement, saying, “EMS leadership must be replaced,  I don’t  believe that there are any management classes that they can take to teach them the skills they are lacking, or the ill will they created.” She suggested that “Volunteers may need to be considered part-time, setting up a schedule when they are available instead of having an unknown shortage” as well as making other recommendations on fundraising to support EMS.

Wempen responded saying that there was a difference of opinion on the statement read by Glassow and encouraged her and other residents to attend the May 14th meeting with county commissioners to voice their opinions.

Mayor Blakeman stated, “I think there are some serious problems that you need to deal with, Lauri,” before ending the discussion and moving on to other business.

Action items approved at the meeting included:

-Approval of   Liquor License Renewals for 3 Retail, 3 Restaurant, 2 Club liquor, and 1 Bar & Grill locations

Approval to  authorize Mayor Blakeman to sign Amendment Number 7 (Revision #1) to the contract between the Town of Dubois and Jacobs Engineering for the Dubois Municipal Airport, Land Acquisition Support Services, Warm River Ranch parcel. This change decreases the amount by $6,620.00.

-Approval of a Memorandum of Agreement between the Town of Dubois and the Dubois Boy Scout Troop to install a par-course in Town Park along the Riverwalk.

-Approval to  authorize Mayor Blakeman to sign a grant application from the Town of Dubois to the Never Sweat Recreation Board in the amount of $1,500.00 for the purchase of various small appliances for the Headwater Arts and Conference Center.

Approval of the 2013/2014 Wind River Visitors Council Budget Plan Joint Powers Board DBA Wind River Visitors Council Budget.

-Approval to authorize Mayor Blakeman as the official voting delegate for the 2013 WAM Annual Convention Business Meeting in Riverton, Saturday, June 15, 2013. Council member Rick Lee was authorized as an alternate delegate.

Council reviewed WAM resolutions 13-02, 13-03, 13-04 and 13-05 voted to have the Dubois voting delegate and alternate vote in favor of all but resolution 13-03.

-Approval of Budget Ordinance 405 upon Second Reading.

Approval of special event permit applications(WYDOT)and approval to authorize Mayor Blakeman to sign the permit applications for the Chance Phelps Foundation Run 4 Chance 5K to be held on August 10, 2013 and the Dubois Chamber of Commerce 4th of July Parade

-Approval of Accounts Payable list dated May 3rd, 2013.

Approval of April 2013 Financial Report as presented.

The meeting adjourned at 8:30 p.m.

After the agenda item on the ambulance was addressed, attendance at the meeting thinned out considerably. (June Bonasera photo)

After the agenda item on the ambulance was addressed, attendance at the meeting thinned out considerably. (June Bonasera photo)