Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.

County Commission News

EMS Request for Proposals
Columbia County doesn't get it - again

At the March 4, 2010 County Commission meeting, County Chairman, Ronald Williams, who has for years complained at every opportunity about the County's mistreatment by the City regarding the City's non contribution to EMS, joined with the top county management in collectively failing to prepare a complete agenda for the County Commission meeting, leaving off a very important item.

Only two weeks before, at the joint city-county sit down, at the suggestion of Lake City Manager, Wendell Johnson, it was decided to form a selection committee to review the EMS Request for Proposals (RFP) that City Manager Johnson was preparing. This RFP was to set the parameters for a fair and impartial investigation of the city-county EMS controversy and to suggest a solution. The EMS committee after approving the RFP is to make a selection from the responding firms.

At stake is the solution to this long simmering problem, which has caused nothing but hard feelings between the city and the county and has a collective monetary value, which is thought by some on the county side of the street to be around $750,000. Lake City does not share this sentiment.

On March 4th, one hour and fourteen minutes into the County Commission meeting, County Manager, Dale Williams thought to tell the Board that he had left something off the agenda. This is standard operating procedure for Columbia County. This time it was the important appointment of a citizen to the EMS Review Committee, which both the city and the county were to make.

Dale Williams told the County Commission, "We need to designate the Board's citizen representative appointee."

The County Selection

No one on the Board appeared to know what was going on.

County Commission Chairman Ronald Williams immediately appointed Commissioner Dewey Weaver and after cross talk and laughter they realized that Commissioner Weaver was not the citizen representative that the County Manager had in mind.

Then out of the blue, Jack Berry protégé, District III Commissioner, Jody DuPree, said, "The new - the new Chamber director. It would be a good experience for her."

There was more giggling from the Board and the audience. The Chamber Director, Ms. Denille Folsome looked shocked and embarrassed.

When Chairman Williams asked her if she would accept the appointment, Ms. Folsome, not being experienced in the controversy, agreed that it would be best to check with her board before taking the appointment.

Chairman Williams, looking out into the audience, saw someone he knew and said, "Mr. Hall, would you accept that appointment?"

Mr. Hall said, "I would take it."

Chairman Williams:  "All right, we got our citizen right there."

Com DuPree: "He's a politician already."

At the conclusion of the meeting Mr. Hall walked over to County Manager, Dale Williams and told him he didn't know anything about the EMS issue. The county manager told him not to worry about it and he would tell him what he needed to know.

The City Selection

Lake City, as its citizen representative chose former city councilman, Mike Lee.

Mr. Lee had been involved in many fire related negotiations and was well educated and informed on the issues.

This past Friday, the Observer asked City Manager Johnson: "Do you think this is an important assignment and should the individual appointed to review the firms have some idea about the history of the issues?"

Lake City's straight talking City Manager emailed back:

The role of the Committee members should be viewed by all as a very important assignment and responsibility.

First, this Committee is poised to amicably resolve a long-standing “difference of opinion” between the County and City governments regarding EMS services.  It is easy to assume that this dispute has probably contributed to a lack of success in making joint city/county decisions on other matters as well.

Second, the process that the County and City have agreed to in allowing this Joint-Committee approach and the services of an independent consultant “should” provide for a fair and impartial result in determining the equitable cost share and funding source for County provision of City EMS.

Finally, the Committee has the opportunity to carry out this assignment as a “giant” step in the direction of “positive” intergovernmental cooperation.   I believe that it is clearly advantageous for a Committee member to have knowledge of the EMS issue; hence, you will see a background section in the RFP. This brief history is also intended to help potential consultants to better understand the issue.

I know that Dale, Marlin, and Mr. Darby have a strong understanding of the issue. 

As a former Councilmember, no doubt Mike Lee has a broad understanding as well and the Mayor’s decision to appoint him was wise indeed. 

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