Lincoln County Commissioners are still unsure as to which direction to follow regarding workshop discussions on the management of the Lincoln County Fire District and the County Emergency Management office. It was a continuation of discussions began April 6.
At present, Rick Stever fills both positions, but has informed commissioners the amount of paperwork involved with Emergency Management has become so burdensome another person is needed to handle the load.
Commissioners have said they were unsure if this should really be a full time job and a part time job, or two part time jobs. Some have said they don’t think there is enough for two full time jobs.
Stever’s first idea was to hire a full-time fire district manager, which he would like to do, then do something else with emergency management. He said the fire district budget does have the money for such a full time position. He said there are only a few one-person shows in the state, with Lincoln and Nye County being two of them, most counties have more people.
Mathews said, “We’re looking at how Rick can spend more hours on the fire district side so he can develop some of the programs more in some of the areas of service, and I thought if we just add a part time person on the emergency management side.”
Stever said one of the Emergency Management funds is a grant from the Department of Energy at 50 percent, and another is a federal emergency management fund at 25 percent, but both may soon be lowered.
Regulations and paperwork on for the emergency management program is a lot higher to qualify for all the state grants and such. Stever has noted. Even County Grants Administrator Elaine Zimmerman has to take the same classes, just to be able to apply for the federal grants, as do the people who are directly involved in emergency management. “17 online classes,” Stever said, “she has to take. If we don’t comply with that, we will lose 25 percent federal reimbursement.
He said the Lincoln County Fire District, of which Stever is chief, “is expanding, taking on more responsibilities, which will one day include the Coyote Springs development and Toquop. What is the County going to do down there? Is someone going to take the time to enter into mutual aide agreements with Mesquite? I think there things in the future that are going to require quite a bit more time.”
Discussion was also held on shifting some of the emergency management responsibilities to the Sheriff’s Department. Sheriff Lee said paperwork to get reimbursement back from the state has proven to be a big problem. “I know a lot of counties have pulled out from taking the grant money because of the amount of paperwork it takes to get a fairly small amount of reimbursement. Some have found it to be a nightmare. A lot of requirements to get that 50 and 25 percent funding.”
He said, “If we were to take it over, we would have to look very closely to find out is that worth everything you have to go through for the small reimbursement, and if so, how can we streamline it and make sure the money is flowing and not eaten up somewhere else, and we then have to figure out how to make up the difference?”
Stever noted it is not required that every county have an emergency management program, so are in the Sheriff’s Department and some are in the fire department. And a problem therefore arises in some counties, he said, that the emergency management is not in compliance with state requirements because they are combined with another group, and are not focusing solely on the primary job of emergency management.”
If money was shifted across from the fire department to the agency management as Mathews had first suggested, Stever said it would not lessen the workload or time requirements.
Asked to define Emergency Management’s role in Lincoln County, Stever said, “It gives the County an avenue to develop a plan and security for the citizens. And in case an emergency should happen it lays out a developed plan of what the citizens need to do, what the responders are going to do, who responds to what, and what is going to happen. It is also a valuable resource to the state when the emergency might get above what the County can handle in regards to funding and resources. I’ve got contacts upstate that I can pick up the phone and can give us anything we need. If it goes beyond what the state can handle, then it goes to FEMA.”
FEMA was called in to help in Caliente during the flooding in 2005. Caliente City Manager Stana Hurlburt noted FEMA also helped the City with the recently completed Springs Heights project and is being talked with in regards to helping provide funds for the bridge replacement going to the Caliente Youth Center.
As emergency management director, when necessary, Stever in charge of coordinating with all the local, state and federal entities.
He said things have grown recently and there are now more state and federal requirements both on the fire side and emergency management side. “More requirements coming down for whatever you’re doing.”
Stever said he has spoken to a qualified person in the County regarding emergency management work, who is very interested in such a position, but did not give a name.
As this was only a workshop session, Commissioners did not make a decision on whether the question should be one full time job and one part time administrative assistant, or two part time jobs.