CHIPLEY — The Washington County Board of County Commissioners discussed filling a few county positions and rescinded an early board action at Thursday’s BOCC meeting in Chipley.
Senior Planner Mike DeRuntz asked the board to consider a list of candidates for the county planning commission. Commissioner Tonya Pippin will be stepping down from the panel in May, and a replacement is needed for her.
“We have quite a few people who have expressed interest in serving on the commission, and I have been getting in touch with them to make sure they are still willing,” DeRuntz said.
He noted that Pippin’s position is an “at-large” position, and can be filled with a resident from anywhere in the county.
Commissioner Charles Brock asked if the open position had been advertised so that the public would know a commissioner was being sought.
“Back in 2011 the county advertised for persons interested in serving on boards,” DeRuntz said. From the applications received in 2011, he had compiled a list of potential candidates for the planning commission.
The board was asked to consider the names on the list and come back to the May meeting ready to discuss an appointment.
“It would be great to have a full board,” DeRuntz said.
The commissioners also discussed the county’s search for a public safety director.
Chairman Alan Bush said he was concerned with the direction the search for a public safety director was taking.
After Roger Hagan retired as public safety director in December, the commission voted to update the county’s organizational chart and move the Emergency Medical Services under the direction of the public safety director.
Bush said he thought that the board may have acted precipitously in putting the EMS under the public safety director’s jurisdiction.
“I never got a clear feeling from the board for what they wanted to do,” Bush said.
He suggested the county move the EMS back out from under the direction of the public safety director.
“We shouldn’t fill this position,” said Commissioner Joel Pate, who was celebrating his 75th birthday on Thursday. “This has been mishandled from the get-go.”
County Attorney Jeff Goodman said that the board would have to rescind its previous action of changing the organizational chart, and that the job should be re-advertised and a new pool of candidates gathered and interviewed.
The interviewing and hiring would be conducted by the county administrator and the human resources director, Goodman said.
“I was not comfortable with that decision of the board at that time,” Bush said of the organizational change. “The further it progressed, the less comfortable I got.”
“I’m confused,” said Brock. “The EMS director was always the responsibility of the public safety director. Whoever moves into that spot should have the same responsibilities Roger Dale had.”
Commissioner Todd Abbott said before EMS came under the direction of the county, back when it was still controlled by the hospital, the county’s long-range plan was that someday the EMS would be under the county’s public safety director’s control.
“What I am hearing now is in contradiction to that,” Abbott said. “We’re asking, ‘did we do the right thing?’”
“If we got the wrong person in that position, it could hurt two strong, well functioning departments,” Bush said. “Right now, we’ve bound our county administrator’s hands in forcing him to fill the position this way.”
Commissioner Lynn Gothard asked if this meant they would hire the public safety director based on the old job description. Pate said that was correct.
“The only problem I have is that in that very first meeting, there was a name that came up and that name is still in the top three,” Brock said.
The commissioners voted to rescind their action of Jan. 24 and take the EMS out from under the direction of the public safety director, according to the organizational chart.
Gothard and Brock voted against the change, while Abbott, Bush and Pate voted in favor.
“I would like to see us have more discussion and some clarification,” said Abbott.
Abbott said the commissioners’ actions were making it difficult for County Administrator Steve Joyner to do his job.
“Mr. Joyner has a vacancy and he is authorized to fill this position,” Abbott said. “I think we have wrongfully taken away some of his options, and for that I apologize.”