Archive for Thursday, March 1, 2007

County endorses merger talk

March 1, 2007

Three weeks ago, Eudora Emergency Medical Service member Bill Vigneron said he felt like he was in the dark when it came to the future of the organization.

Now things seem clearer, he said.

The Eudora City Council agreed Feb. 12 to begin talks to merge the Eudora Emergency Medical Service with the Eudora City Fire Department.

"I'm very excited," Vigneron said. "It looks like it's going to happen, which is fine, and it sounds like all the secrets that were being kept are out in the open now," he said.

The service members act as first responders when an emergency call is made within Eudora and the surrounding area. The group is currently supervised by Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical.

"I think everybody will be better off," Vigneron said.

He said he was mainly concerned with how talks of the merger were first brought up, and even that has passed, he said. Before the city council brought up the possibility of a merger, Eudora Fire Chief Randy Ates talked to members of EEMS about the switch, but couldn't comment on any firm plans.

The process moved one more step forward Monday, when the Douglas County Planning Commission endorsed negotiations with the city, county and Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical.

Eudora City Administrator Cheryl Beatty and Ates each spoke Monday about the advantages of merging EEMS with the city fire department.

With Ates' supervision, the service would have access to more training and organizational procedures. Some former EMS members have expressed interest in returning if the service becomes a part of the fire department, he said.

"My sense is the commission supports the concept. You all can work out the details," County Commission Chairman Bob Johnson said.

Commissioner Jere McElhaney said he envisioned Douglas County coming under one fire and medical department in another 15 to 20 years.

"We're more of an urban community," he said. "In my vision we're looking at, in the long term, a countywide fire department."

Ates said he was pleased with the commission's decision.

"We seem to be all heading in the same direction," Ates said "They were interested in more detail than I thought they would be at this point."

The commission's curiosity about the details shows a definite interest in the direction of the talks, Ates said.

With the county commission's approval, Beatty and Douglas County Administrator Craig Weinaug, will begin negotiations.

Eventually, the duo will draft the interlocal agreement.

After Weinaug and Beatty form the document, the final draft will still need to gain the approval from the city council and county commission.

---- Lawrence Journal-World reporter Mike Belt contributed to this story.

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