REED CITY — Hearing a private emergency medical service company would be giving a presentation caused many to speak up during a recent Osceola County Commissioners meeting.
At its Tuesday, Sept. 15 meeting, the Osceola County Board of Commissioners heard a presentation from Life EMS CEO Mark Meijers on what the company was about.
“By no means are we looking to step on any toes,‘ Meijers said. “But we were asked by the chairman to come and give a presentation.‘
Currently, the company serves 10 counties across the western half of the Lower Peninsula including Lake and Newaygo counties.
According to Commissioner Larry Emig, this is not the first time the county has looked into the possibility of EMS privatization.
“A number of years ago, I think it was around 10 years ago, we were considering privatizing our EMS services,‘ he said. “At the time EMS had a lot of employees that posed a challenge for our director at the time. It caused us to go through quite a few directors until we finally got to Mr. Beebe. (...) Because of that, as a board, we thought about changing over from our own service to a privatized one.‘
However, Emig said the board had decided it was still important to the constituents to have a county-operated department.
Commissioners were unaware of the presentation until they saw it on the agenda released on Friday, Sept. 11.
“When we talked about this years ago, transparency was given,‘ Emig said. “The commissioners and the public knew what was going on. This came off as only a select few were aware of what was going on.‘
Osceola EMS Director Jeremy Beebe said he was blindsided by the presentation and was not sure why privatization was being considered.
“Communication could have been better in this situation,‘ he said. “There was no communication to me or the public about the presentation or its intent. How in the world can I recruit and retain employees if they don’t trust the commissioners? (...) With a 75% millage approval in March, why are you looking into privatization.‘
Employees said they just wanted to know why the switch was being considered.
“You don’t just wake up and decide you want to have a presentation,‘ EMS employee Billie Jean Patton said. “I just would like to know what caused it. We just passed a millage in March, thus you can imagine the surprise when we saw that Life’s CEO was coming to speak.‘
Chairman of the Board Jack Nehmer said he only intended for this to be a presentation and took full responsibility if employees were concerned.
“I was curious about Life EMS and met with Mark a few times and asked for a presentation to make all the information available to the other commissioners and to the public,‘ he said. “I only intended for this to be just a presentation. No discussion, no decision, just a presentation.‘
Nehmer later commented that it was something the personnel and finance committee had discussed and that he had met with Meijers two times prior to the commissioner’s meeting.
Nehmer could not be reached for further comment prior to publication.
The board did not make any motions in regards to privatizing EMS and no further plans about moving forward were made.