Interim ambulance chief named

Jul 15, 2013 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

As of Friday, the Fremont County ambulance department has its interim director.

Lander division supervisor Todd Smith took over the top spot after Fremont County Commissioners accepted Lauri Wempen's resignation from the director position July 9.

Wempen's departure came amid a budget disagreement with commissioners.

"We need to have some stability for all the ambulance people so they know what direction we're going," Commissioner Larry Allen said.

Other measures were necessary to keep the emergency medical service operational during the period of flux.

Allen, who is the commission's liaison to the ambulance department, received retroactive ratification from the county board for some documents he had signed on the ambulance department's behalf, and will have to continue signing others for the agency.

Commission chairman Doug Thompson also asked Smith and Allen to hold a work session on the ambulance department's budget and management structure.

The moves come amid continuing budget talks and after the Riverton ambulance division supervisor also resigned recently.

The commission asked Smith to find interim supervisors for the Lander and Riverton stations while it searches for a permanent department director.

"We need to look for someone completely outside of Fremont County ... with no alliances with anybody," said Allen.

He said Smith had no desire to be the permanent director.

The commission briefly considered not hiring a new director and place supervisors in Lander and one in Riverton but decided against such a move.

"You have two separate people with two separate budgets going two separate directions," chairman Doug Thompson said. "That management structure hasn't been really successful."

Allen raised a concern with finding a permanent director.

"We'll be shell-shocked by the pay these people will be asking, expect to have for that kind of responsibility," he said. "Almost double what (the director) was making now."

The county board wanted to allow a future, permanent director to restructure as he or she saw fit. The interim managers would only hold their positions on a temporary basis.

After discussing the generalities, the commissioners went into executive session to discuss moving Smith to the interim director position. When they came back into regular session after 20 minutes, they unanimously voted to appoint him to the temporary post.

Smith said the emergency medical service has individuals capable of assuming supervisor roles, but he would first ask who is interested in the temporary job.

The commission authorized him to appoint interim supervisors as he saw fit and all voted to accept Wempen's resignation. They did not directly address the exiting director's desire to work as a part-time emergency medical technician.

"You will have the authority to employ part time EMTs, commensurate with their qualifications and the need for them," Thompson told Smith.

Discussions between the county board and Wempen regarding increasing the EMS budget have been on going for about two months.

Wempen has said her department needs to bring part time people to full time to compensate for decreasing volunteerism and a rise in the number of calls for ambulances.

The county board has not reached a decision regarding Wempen's requests. At a previous meeting, it did begin to look at the cost of giving some health benefits to uninsured EMTs and giving a small, across-the-board raise to ambulance staff compared to the increased revenue from raising the rates for service.

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