Council revives EMS training program

After exasperating all attempts to staff a full crew of paramedics in the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) department, the City of Brady took steps to explore other avenues and to essentially promote from within as they met in regular session Wednesday morning. Since the implementation of pay increases for the EMS department, advertisements have been running for eight weeks for a full time paramedic position, and according to director Eddie Sayles, the department has received zero response. “Education is a big part of our department,” he told the council. “The Department of Health, who regulates emergency services and staff, has changed the way EMS personnel are educated and it’s had a negative impact on rural communities such as Brady. “In Mertzon,” he told the council, “60-65 percent of all ambulance calls go unanswered. Eden has asked for a variance to the EMS rule from the State of Texas to put only one certified person on an ambulance. The list goes on and on all through Texas.” In explaining the hardships the department is having in becoming fully staffed, Sayles asked the council to consider funding the paramedic completion course for some of the department’s long-time EMTs. According to Sayles, the paramedic completion course is 1,200 hours’600 of which is required in a clinical setting. “We’re asking you to send them to school,” he told the council. ” Used to we could train our own. Starting next year we can do the basic class (emergency medical technician); however, due to being a rural area and the new ‘modern concept’ of what cities and counties need, we would like to bring these up to paramedic level.” “Fire fighters, when they come out of the academy, are already basic EMTs. We can draw from another department. Fire and EMS go hand-in-hand. That’s just the way the trend is. We’re asking to be able to send three personnel to the paramedic completion course and get these people to a position where we can continue to provide service to the community. “Our departments have a good working relationship and that’s a positive for us.” Funds needed for the class itself (in two parts, an intermediate and final paramedic course) are $1,500 and $1,200 per person. The clinical training includes emergency ward experience at metropolitan hospitals, as well as a “crash load” of additional training, according to Sayles. With the absence created, Sayles has asked to hire two firefighters/EMTs to help cover shifts of both fire and EMS staffing specifically during training as well as to improve the staffing level at the fire department. “Someone will have to continue to work here while these people are in school.” “With this whole process, we’re essentially trying to grow our own paramedics,” said Mayor James Stewart. With the question being raised concerning the assurance the City of Brady has in retaining their services once their continued education is paid for and completed, the city’s assistant attorney, Matt deFerranti, stated that the issue is one that the city has explored in the past. “I researched it, and what we can do is probably recover for the training cost. We’re an at-will state so you can’t force people to continue working. You can recover the training cost. How much is not clear yet to me; I need to look into it more. There are limitations. but we can recover some, not all, if they decide not to stay with the city.” City Manager Merle Taylor estimated a $98,000 increase to offset two new firefighter/EMT salaries, plus paramedic training for the three current staff members and travel expenses. “We have five in the department who were all trained by the City of Brady,” added Sayles. “My goal is, as we go through this, we start to pick our own citizens up who love Brady, want to live here and work here, and we take them through the emergency medical course, and if they like it and want to continue in this field, we can help them along the way.” “Personally, I’m for having the best trained, best paid employees (maybe not the highest paid), but I’m certainly not opposed to it,” said Councilman Jesse Tate. Rey Garza also agreed, provided that a contract is in place to ensure that the city doesn’t get the “short end of the stick.” The city’s attorney stated he would research it to make sure the city is protected in a contract between now and the next meeting. Gary Schroeder, vice president of the hospital board, told the council that the hospital board is “very much in support of this proposal.” “We need to do this,” said Michele Derrick, a hospital board member. “We’ve been messing around with this for months. With the growth that we’re having here in Brady, what we pay for will come back to us. Let’s do the right thing here and approve this at the next reading. We’ll be here to help if you need it.” After hearing the positives surrounding the issue, Councilman Jesse Tate moved it be approved on the first reading; however, he suggested that it be improved upon to include some type of contract protecting the city’s interests. In other business, the council voted to purchase one Crown Victoria sedan and one Ford Expedition for the Brady Police Department. The vehicles being considered are part of approved budget items for the department. The department had $52,000 in the current budget for new vehicles. Bids submitted to the City of Brady for recommendation included packages for two sedans and a sedan and sport utility vehicle. “We studied whether to purchase an SUV and sedan or two Crown Victoria’s,” said City Manger Merle Taylor. “Personally, I suggest we accept the department’s recommendation to purchase one Crown Victoria and one SUV.” In explaining the necessity and durability of an SUV, St. Lance Sides with the Brady Police Department addressed the council concerning the issue. “I worked for an agency prior to coming here where we tested 10 (SUVs). Before I left that department, they had gone completely to SUVs.” Sides also noted that the durability and capabilities of the SUV and it’s overall effectiveness far outweigh the trade-off in miles per gallon. According to Taylor, who referenced manufacturer’s estimates, the SUV will cost an additional $1,600 per year to drive as opposed to the Crown Victoria. The necessity which spawned the new purchase is due in part to one sedan which is currently out of commission for repair and another unit which has over 100,000 miles on it. The new SUV will be utilized seven days a week by the patrol division as a supervisor’s unit and will remain at the police station when not in use. Approving the sedan/SUV package resulted in a $434 difference in savings over the two sedan package. The current K-9 unit will be rotated out while the other police unit will remain with the department. “It’s critical that we move on this,” said Councilwoman Mary Bradshaw. “It’s a crucial situation, and we’re charged with the safety of the community.” After moving the item to the end of the meeting to determine exact costs associated with outfitting the SUV, Councilman Garza made the motion that the sedan/SUV package be approved for $48,000. Costs associated with outfitting the SUV came in at $150, well under what was anticipated. Additional equipment needed will include the cage, camera system which is required by law and the emergency lighting system. Unfortunately, there will be a slight delay in the arrival of the units. Sides anticipate it could take anywhere from one and one-half months to two months before they are outfitted with the necessary police equipment and delivered to Brady. As the next item up for action, the council made the recommendation that the current members of the McCulloch County Appraisal District Board of Directors be considered as candidates for this year’s appointment process. Current members recommended by the council’ with the exception of Roy Barton who has opted not to serve again’were James Stewart, David Ortiz, Marsha Neal and Mike Finlay. In ordinances, the council voted to amend the fiscal year 2007-2008 budget to allow for unforeseen additional expenses for tree trimming services. In a recent meeting, the council voted to approve $25,000 for trimming services; however, that amount is well under the total dollar amount suggested by the Lower Colorado River Authority. “Our line loss is at 10.2 percent,” Taylor said, “and I feel like the $50,000 is very easily justified within the $488,000 per year that we’re losing in line loss.” Primarily, most of the loss can be contributed to trees rubbing on the lines or creating a line loss when that voltage goes to the ground. Although the city has already tackled a lot of congested areas, additional attention is needed; therefore, Councilman Tate made the suggestion that the utility department coordinate closely with the tree trimmers to oversee the work being done. With that said, Councilman Garza made the motion that the item be passed on the first reading, and the item was unanimously approved by the group. Also, the first reading of an ordinance allowing the city to tax tangible business property in transit was approved Wednesday morning. This ordinance was a simple houskeeping issue to continue the status quo following an updated legislative directive. In the city manager’s report, Taylor stated how encouraging it was to see the amount of traffic and people who attended the Hunter’s Extravaganza hosted by KNEL at the Ed Davenport Civic Center. “It’s the largest event that I’ve ever been to in Brady ‘other than a football game,” he said. “We’re talking about growth here and we need to be prepared for it. We need to be on the forefront of making Brady grow. The more we grow, the easier our jobs will become. It’s much easier to focus on growth than a reduction in population and business. “Our sales taxes are up, and I have no doubt that the impact of the Supercenter will only increase that tax.” He went on to add that the city may need to come up with some ideas to expand events such as these to bring more dollars and interest into Brady. In closing his report, Taylor said that the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and road construction crews anticipate the striping of Bridge Street next week, bringing an end to the $8 million TxDOT project.

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