Hospital discusses emergency manager position with city, schools

ARLINGTON Tri-agency emergency management planning was discussed by the Cascade Valley Hospital and Clinics Board of Directors Oct. 17, as representatives of the city of Arlington and the Arlington School District and Fire Department submitted a proposed salary for a full-time emergency manager position.
As our mayor says, were a full-service city, Arlington Fire Chief Jim Rankin said. So we should provide the best level of service possible.
Rankin recommended that the proposed full-time emergency manager position run two years, because he believes it will take that long for the emergency manager to accomplish their goals.
We need someone with a good amount of experience, since we wont have time to train them, said Rankin, who noted that Christine Badger, the communitys current part-time emergency manager, has already accepted a full-time contract with another city. He presented the full-time nature of the position, as well as its benefits package, as ways of attracting qualified candidates.
Because such an emergency manager would coordinate emergency management plans for the city, the fire department, the school district and the hospital, Rankin suggested that position be supervised by an oversight committee, rather than by multiple supervisors. He requested that the emergency manager nonetheless be directly accountable to him and the city.
When board member John Meno asked what would happen to the position after two years, Arlington City Administrator Allen Johnson and Arlington School District Superintendent Linda Byrnes acknowledged that would depend on the progress that had been made in developing and implementing emergency management plans for the three agencies, and whether other staff members could carry on the same functions.
Its a continuing process, Byrnes said. We dont want to turn around and suddenly find that we only have one or two people left, out of the 15 weve trained in this area. And without talking with one another, we might plan to use the same spaces for different purposes. I dont want to figure out those details during a crisis. I will sleep better when we have a plan in place and were all on the same page.
Meno followed up by asking if the community needs an emergency manager to qualify for certain grant funds. Rankin clarified that they do not, but that they do need an emergency management plan in place to qualify for those funds, and without an emergency manager he doubts it will be possible to coordinate such a plan.
Board members Margo Powell and Steve Peterson were among those who agreed with Rankin, Johnson and Byrnes assessment of the need for the position and the plan, but they disagreed on the need for the position to be full-time.
The citys got a plan in place, and the hospitals got a plan in place, Peterson said. I think were already part of the way there.
Were not ready, Johnson said. Were not even scratching the surface.
Just because were complying with the rules doesnt mean were really ready, Byrnes said. Last winter was an adventure. It was the first time we couldnt get the kids home. We can take care of the day-to-day stuff, but we need to look at the bigger picture.
Rankin conceded Petersons point that previous emergency management plans have sat on the shelf once they were completed, but he promised that the new emergency management plan would be the subject of coordinated training exercises.
Its a major hit, though, Peterson said of the positions salary, which would range from $70,000-$80,000 a year, and its benefits, which would run between $26,600-$30,400 per year. Weve already had layoffs within the past few months. Where do we find that money? We all agree that this is a plausible plan, but it all boils down to the budget.
Powell likewise requested that the proposals plan and budget be more refined, which Rankin expects to accomplish through further meetings with the City Council and school district board of directors.
Personally, I need more details, Powell said. Its an important decision, and I cant commit to it yet.
I certainly dont expect a decision on this tonight, Rankin said.

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