UPDATE: Washington County Commissioners Make Decision on EMA Oversight

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UPDATE 7/31/2014 5:00 PM

Who will have oversight of the Washington County Emergency Management Agency?

The county commission made a decision.

This spring the idea of having the Washington County Sheriff oversee EMA was brought to the table.

Many meetings and discussions brought up concerns from the fire departments.

There will be a panel made up of a commissioner, the sheriff or a delegate and the fire chief association president or a delegate.

And it will remain that the Washington County Commissioners have the ultimate say, the appointing authority.

Washington County Commissioners approved Thursday morning the resolution which they believe is the best way to serve and keep the community safe in emergency situations.

The panel will meet within the next month to sort out the details.

"As far as I'm concerned this is business as usual. I'll still continue to serve the citizens and the residents and the businesses and the government of the county the best I can," says EMA Director Jeff Lauer.

Lauer says the EMA is a supporting agency.

In an emergency the EMA helps the fire, sheriff and police with whatever they need.

And the only way to make sure it is done right for our community is team work from everyone.

The sheriff's office says they will be attending the meetings and working out the details for the day to day operations.

Next year on this date, July 31, this resolution will be null and void.

No vote, it just goes away.

Commissioners say this way it's almost like a year trial and they only bring it back to the table if someone wants to.

UPDATE 6/12/2014 11:10 AM

Some key questions about protecting and serving Washington County.

Who handles the EMA.

This isn't just about city police and fire.

It involves all county responders and it's important everyone is on the same page.

The president of the Washington County fire chiefs, Mark Wile, says slow down.

The sheriff and commissioners need to look at other options.

He's afraid this won't work out as well as everybody thinks.

The sheriff presented everyone with a three page letter explaining what his administrative duties would be with the EMA.

Director Jeff Lauer stays and so would everything else.

But they would check in with the sheriff.

Chief Wile says why change it if everything is running smoothly.

Both Chief Wile and the commissioners have been calling other counties who have done this to see if it is successful.

Right now they are giving us conflicting answers.

Chief Wile made a point to say this isn't against the sheriff himself.

They are worried about years to come and the sheriff's office being favored over the fire departments.

But commissioner Ron Feathers says it's been long enough and we need a county wide emergency plan.

Right now, there is no fool proof emergency plan and that scares him.

Things need to change and the sheriff is trained for this.

Washington County authorities want to change who oversees emergency services.

County commissioners supervised the start of the EMA, but now, they want the sheriff's office to take over.

Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks supports the idea.

He says his office is better equipped to oversee day-to-day operations.

But the county commission tabled the move Thursday.

Although they want the sheriff's office to take over, they say they need more time to talk about it.

"Public input, more time to investigate with all the other emergency responders in the county and see what ramifications there would be," says Commissioner David White. "We don't want to just jump into something without making sure we've covered all our bases first."

White says the commission would still be responsible for staffing emergency services.

Thursday's vote was tabled indefinitely, meaning we don't know when another vote to transfer services will happen.

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