EMA panel hammers out duties of director

During their first official meeting Tuesday, the three members of the newly created Emergency Management Agency (EMA) supervisory panel hashed out a specific job description and implemented daily activity reporting for the director of the county’s EMA.

The EMA office, currently headed up by director Jeff Lauer, is responsible for organizing training and developing and coordinating plans for emergency situations with local fire departments, hospitals, law enforcement, chemical plants and others.

But up until now, there has apparently been no specific job description for the EMA director, a document that could help clarify expectations of the position, said Washington County Commissioner Ron Feathers.

“We couldn’t find an existing one. It’s something lots of positions have,” he explained.

The Washington County Commissioners voted in July to form the panel, which includes Feathers, Major Brian Schuck of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and Washington County Fire Chiefs Association President Mark Wile.

Initially commissioners had considered transferring administrative oversight of the agency to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. After area fire chiefs expressed concern that would impact the actions and funding overseen by the agency a panel of representatives was formed.

The panel was hailed as a good compromise after a proposal for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office to be transferred administrative oversight of the agency received heavy criticism

Panel members said they hoped the carefully considered list of required duties, skills and knowledge would serve as a guide for the director.

“Right now the EMA director does what they think they should be doing. But this is some direction to show them what we are expecting, this is the direction we want to go,” said Wile.

Lauer was not present at the meeting and did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday.

Feathers said Lauer was not barred from the meeting, but he was not specifically invited so that they could make unfettered decisions about the job duties.

Among other things, the panel discussed whether they thought Lauer should keep an equipment list which would detail the assets-such as generators, power tools, vehicles and more-of different county agencies. Feathers and Schuck acknowledged there was some negative feedback about the idea from local fire departments, but stressed that the list would be useful for the county and that no department would be required to share their equipment.

“We realize departments have a lot invested in these tools…It’s not so another department can take custody, control and care of an item,” said Feathers.

Feathers said it is more likely departments in need could call and request a needed item and a representative of the department that owns it to assist them.

Compiling the equipment list was one of many duties that made it into the job description. Others included being skilled at handling communication equipment, helping coordinate emergency shelter and maintaining records according to an appropriate retention schedule.

The job description will have to be approved by the Washington County Commissioners and given to Lauer for signing.

Also discussed Tuesday was the desire for Lauer to perform daily bullet reporting. The activity is practiced by all those in a supervisory position at the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, said Schuck.

“I think it gives everyone a running idea of what the EMA director does in a given day,” he said.

Wile worried that a daily reporting system is excessive for the agency, which only includes Lauer and a part-time secretary.

“I think probably a weekly report would be sufficient. I don’t envision this job being so dynamic that a daily report is needed,” said Wile.

Feathers said he liked the idea of daily reporting for now. A weekly report often leaves things off that a person has forgotten by the time they are compiling it Friday, he said.

A daily system was eventually adopted with the goal being for Lauer to start the reporting system this week, the panel agreed.

The panel repeatedly stressed that the suggestions were not an indication that anything is currently wrong with the position, rather that like most jobs, it can always use evaluation to potentially improve efficiency.

The panel plans to meet again Sept. 16 and hopes to discuss possible evaluation methods for the director position.