Commissioners form panel to oversee EMA

After long talks with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and the Washington County Fire Chiefs Association, a resolution was adopted Thursday by Washington County Commissioners to allow the Emergency Management Agency (EMA) to be overseen by a panel of representatives.

Those representatives include Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks, or a delegate, Washington County Fire Chiefs Association President Mark Wile, or a delegate, and one Washington County Commissioner, who will most likely be the commission president, currently Ron Feathers.

For several months the commissioners considered putting the sheriff’s office in charge of EMA oversight. When the discussion came to the table, it brought controversy, with many saying oversight didn’t need to change at all.

Commissioner David White said after speaking with the fire chiefs association, the members had a lot of concerns about the sheriff’s office being in charge of supervision, so the panel was born.

“The germination of the idea of an oversight panel came about a month ago,” White said. “From the public meetings we began to realize the fire chiefs and fire departments felt as if they were being relegated to a position where they’d have very little input with EMA.”

White said after speaking to the chiefs and the president of the organization, it became clear a panel was the only option.

The wording in the resolution says that administrative and performance oversight are the duty of the panel, but that in accordance with Ohio Revised Code 5502.271, the commissioners will remain the appointing authority for the EMA.

Mark Wile, president of the Washington County Fire Chiefs Association, said the decision is a step in the right direction.

“We had good meetings, informative meetings (with commissioners),” said Wile. “I think it worked out well…I think they did a great job of (forming) the committee…I look forward to getting it started and being able to improve (EMA). It’s not really broke, but you can always make things better.”

Feathers said the panel takes away some of the concerns those in the fire chiefs association may have had.

“It takes off the table the fear of the sheriff taking over the (EMA) with no additional input (from the fire chiefs),” said Feathers. “We ran (the panel idea) by the sheriff and he said it was a great idea.”

Washington County Sheriff’s Office Major Brian Schuck will serve as the delegate from the sheriff’s office. He said the office did not want to comment on the change in oversight yet.

“We will be scheduling a meeting of all parties on the panel and will determine a direction of the EMA and responsibilities of the members,” he said.

White said the resolution took a lot of collaboration and hard work.

“It started with an idea; maybe we should include this or maybe we should include that,” he said. “We passed it back and forth…I’m very comfortable saying the resolution is a good thing…(But in case it’s not) it automatically expires at the end of the year (July 31).”

EMA Director Jeff Lauer could not be reached for comment Thursday.