The Summit County Council has approved changes to the county's emergency staff positions—in a year when emergency response has been the major task for the county.
County councilor Glenn Wright said that at the county’s July 8 meeting that the Council took the position of Emergency Director and divided it up into two positions—one full-time and one part-time.
He said the full-time job is with the Health Department. That’s dictated to a large extent by the state.
“What they call the “PHEP”, Public Health Emergency Program Coordinator, is actually funded by State Health Department grants, and they’ve pretty much demanded of us that that be a full-time position in order for us to get those grants,” Wright said. “What we’ve also found during this COVID emergency is that we need a separate emergency coordinator for non-health purposes. Lt. Siddoway from the Sheriff’s Department has been temporarily filling in with that position. But he’s also responsible for Search and Rescue, and has other duties with the Sheriff’s Department.”
The Public Health Emergency position will be filled by Chris Crowley, who has been the county’s Emergency Manager for about five years.
Wright said the part-time emergency position will remain in the Sheriff’s Department.
“I think many of us on the Council think there are significant unmet needs there,” Wright said. “And as a part-time position, a person’s limited to under 30 hours per week on average. If we were to get a major fire in the county, similar to the Rockport Fire from several years ago, that person would immediately be working 40 hours or more per week. So we’ll just have to see how emergency season, the fire season in particular, progresses. We’re going to try to hire this person as soon as possible under a part-time basis, and basically see what develops.”
“I guess in terms of these two positions, it’s that we probably were not adequately prepared for it,” he said. “We didn’t have enough staff doing all the things necessary. Of course, the COVID pandemic came up really out of nowhere.”
Relatedly, Wright said the majority of citizens have supported and are complying with Summit County’s mandatory mask order implemented last month.
“I’ve been spending the past several Sundays walking on Main Street (in Park City) and talking to shop owners and bar owners there,” he said. “And I think most of them appreciate the fact that we put this in place, cause it makes it easier for them to require mask usage inside their establishments. I’m seeing a lot better compliance with masks. I would say compared to three weeks ago, if you were walking on Main Street on Sunday, you probably saw 10 percent of the people wearing masks. Now it’s probably 80 percent, and the rest of them are carrying, because if they’re going to get into an establishment, they have to have them.”
Of course, he said there have been critics.
“Unfortunately, we have a vocal minority that thinks we’re imposing upon their civil rights,” he said. “I view it more as a responsibility that people have to try to get us safely through this particular crisis, and help both the health and the economy of our community.”