After meeting with staff last week, Cole County Ambulance Director Jerry Johnston recommended to the Cole County Commission Tuesday the service remain on 12-hour shifts for another 90 days.
Johnston said some people will continue working back-to-back 12-hour shifts at the Brazito and Apache Flats stations, but the key will be to give those personnel ample notice of when that will occur.
If in 60 days they haven't seen improvement in working out personnel and schedules, Johnston said, he will return to considering a move back to 24-hour shifts.
The County Commission approved the Cole County Ambulance Service's move from 24-hour shifts to 12-hour shifts in August. Johnston said one of the main reasons for the change was to avoid fatigued ambulance staff.
As of Tuesday, the service is still down seven full-time paramedics, the only openings on the 54-person staff, Johnston said. All communication and emergency medical technician positions have been filled, and there are 40 part-time staff. There are 13 full-time paramedics currently working, with the budget allowing for up to 21.
It's because of the lack of paramedics that the county has tried various ways to recruit new staff, but Johnston last week said nothing really had changed since January and the service was reaching a critical point where something had to be done.
Johnston said Tuesday he was more optimistic about filling those openings. One paramedic has begun the orientation process, and this week the service will interview two potential full-time paramedics, he said.
If it is determined there needs to be a change, the service likely would transition back to two 24-hour shifts. Full-time staff would work two days a week, with part-time staff working 12-hour shifts.
When three ambulance staff members were let go in April, followed by some resignations, there were discussions among those staff members about unionizing the ambulance service. Former part-time paramedic Brody Eller said they had been trying to get employees' addresses to inform them about this, but the county was not cooperating. County Attorney Jill LaHue said by law the county can't give out employees' personal information.
Also, she said, the county checked with the State Board of Mediation, which handles union issues, and which indicated they had not been notified of any efforts for ambulance unionization.
County health department progressing
In other business Tuesday, commissioners heard an update on the renovation for the new health department building on West Truman Boulevard. The county took possession of the building at the beginning of June, and since then they have been working with contractors to ready the building for service, County Facilities Manager Greg Camp said.
Already the commission has approved spending approximately $229,000 for building improvements, and now they've found they'll need to spend about $20,000 for phone and computer network access in the building, County Information Technology Director Brian Ridenhour said.
That led Eastern District Commissioner Jeff Hoelscher to suggest the commission start seriously looking at selling the old health department building on Industrial Drive to help offset the costs for improvements at the new building.
Presiding Commissioner Sam Bushman said he has been approached by some real estate businesses with clients who might be interested in purchasing the old building.
The new health department will have 17,000 square feet of space, an improvement over its current location on Industrial Drive, which is 7,700 square feet.
The county agreed in December 2016 to buy the West Truman location from Community Health Center for $1.5 million. The county will fund the property purchase out of its reserves.
Camp said the new building will be open for business by Oct. 1.
Rainbow Drive development
Also Tuesday, commissioners approved a development agreement for Rainbow Drive.
The county has been working to improve a section of Rainbow Drive from Pioneer Trail to Paradigm Drive, County Engineer Eric Landwehr said. The project would build curb and gutter on the south side of the road in front of a residential development.
Developer Scott Schaperkoetter will pay a portion of the project.
Based on county subdivision regulations, since it is an existing road, he wouldn't have to improve it as part of this development. However, Landwehr said, the county has some future desire to continue the curb and gutter project completed for the Pioneer Trail Elementary School sidewalk. This future work would go through where Schaperkoetter is currently building.
By doing a cooperative project now, Landwehr said, the county can save on future costs of removing and replacing all of the driveway approaches.
The county will pay $75,420 and Schaperkoetter will pay $20,000, Landwehr said.
This work will coincide with overlay work underway on Rainbow Drive.