Ambulance director updates Mabel council on status of EMTs
Wednesday, January 23, 2013 2:48 AM
Neil Folstad, Mabel's ambulance director, attended the January city council meeting to update the council members on the challenges facing the service in regards to training and maintaining the necessary number of EMTs.
City Clerk Jim Narum swears in Brian Street, center, as the new mayor and Laura St. Mary as a new council person at the January city council meeting, held on Jan. 9.
"We are down to 13 members," Folstad shared. "We have 10 EMTs and three first responders. Three of those are from Spring Grove."
Folstad explained that the state is making it hard for small town services because it has increased the necessary education and training hours to become an EMT and requires that at least one EMT go on each call.
When offering EMT classes for new members, there are very few who inquire and those prefer to become first responders or back out when they see how much training time is required. Folstad added that the service is losing one of its EMTs because of the 40-hour refresher course and huge test that is required for her to become recertified.
He also told the council that the information the state requires the EMTs to learn is becoming more in-depth than what ambulance services should have to know. "We cannot make a diagnosis in the field, but they are making us learn the information as if we need to," Folstad explained. "We treat what we see. We call Intercept if we need paramedic help."
Kirsten Wyffels, a member of the council and a nurse practitioner, stated, "It is not only the small towns who are having problems with this."
Folstad noted that if one takes the EMT training, one could earn a college credit for the class.
"We had 124 runs last year," Folstad stated. "I've been on the service for 29 years, maybe I'll retire at 30."
Currently, day coverage in Mabel is also a concern as Tim Mengis and Folstad are the only ones covering that period of time. If Mengis has a conflict, Folstad must call in someone from Spring Grove to help cover the hours.
The council also discussed a recent incident in Lanesboro when their ambulance was unable to respond to a call due to inadequate response by their EMTs. The service is now being reprimanded by the state for that failure.
Folstad stated that if small communities lose their ambulance services, it will be critical to the residents who live there. Even if Gold Cross sets up satellite locations, the increased response time could be fatal. "Just the five to six minutes it takes us to respond can make a difference," he added.
"I just wanted to give the council an update on our status," Folstad said. "I wanted you to know that things are tough."
Folstad urged the council members to write letters to the legislators to see if they could make some changes, or at least an exception, for small town services.
"We are all pretty dedicated to it," Folstad concluded. "I'd hate to see it go down."
The council members agreed and committed to writing to Rep. Greg Davids and Sen. Jeremy Miller about the issue.
"I hope someone will step up here in town too," said council member Terry Torkelson.
Deputy clerk position
In another matter, the council discussed the process of once again hiring a deputy city clerk. The position is once again open due to the promotion of Karen Larson to the city clerk position being vacated by retiring clerk Jim Narum.
The council agreed to review the current applications on file from when the position was open last summer in addition to seeking new applications through an advertisement in the newspaper.
The discussion resulted in a question by new council member Laura St. Mary who asked, "Do we really need another person in the office?"
Narum immediately responded, "Absolutely."
His first reason was in regards to having the proper "checks and balances" in place for city financial reports. "You can't have one person only," he explained. "Our auditors already point that out as a concern with only two people in our office."
Torkelson also voiced concern about reducing the staff to only one person saying, "Sure, we'd save money, but is it worth what we'd lose?" He mentioned the office would need to be closed if the clerk were sick or on vacation.
"Plus, we have our own utility," said Narum. "We bill for electricity, water and sewer, over 1,200 billings a month. We're busy. We're always working on something. If you ask me, we are already as lean as we can be."
It was noted that the clerk position has been reduced to 30 hours and the deputy clerk position is also a part-time position.
"I just thought this would be a good time, with one person retiring, to look at the job descriptions and see what things need to be added or changed," explained St. Mary.
Larson explained that their job descriptions have changed since she became the deputy clerk last summer. She's accepted more duties in regards to renting out the community center and has been working more with the city's website.
Some of Narum's duties, such as zoning officer, will become part of the maintenance director's responsibilities.
The council agreed to place an advertisement for new applications to be due by Feb. 11.
The council approved the slate of appointments for 2013. Acting mayor will be Terry Torkelson, zoning administrator is Bob Mierau, health officer is Tim Mengis, assistant weed inspector will be Karen Larson.
Fire chief will be Robert Schutte with assistant chiefs Tim Mengis and Kelly Sand. Schutte will also serve as the civil defense director.
Official newspaper will be the News-Record and the official depository will be The Bank of the West in Mabel. City attorney is Richard Nethercut.
The regular meetings will be held on the second Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m.
Brian Street and Kirsten Wyffels will represent the council on the EDA board.
Committee assignments were also noted with Wyffels and St. Mary serving on the streets and lights committee; Sue Amunrud and Torkelson serving on sewer and water; Street and Amunrud serving on the ambulance and fire department committee; Wyffels and Torkelson serving on parks and recreation. Street will be the police contact and Karen Larson will be the community center liaison.
Finally, the council approved a change in the February meeting date due to a conflict with Ash Wednesday. The February meeting will now be held on Monday, Feb. 11, at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at the community center.