Before bringing the April 12 weekly business session of the Board of Josephine County Commissioners to order, Board Chair Herman Baertschiger issued a brief statement in regards to a shakeup at the county’s Emergency Management Department.
The meeting took place at the Anne G. Basker Auditorium in Grants Pass.
“Last week there was an article in our local newspaper (The Daily Courier) about our emergency management system and it was poorly written and then it grew up a lot of concern from a lot of people and so I just wanted to clear the air on that,” stated the board chair.
Baertschiger recounted that in 1999, the Oregon Legislature “made it mandatory” for all counties to have emergency management departments incorporated into their governments.
“Across the state, counties went in kind of two different directions – some have an emergency management department with its own coordinator and some counties have an emergency management department where the sheriff is the coordinator.”
He estimated the ratio of Oregon counties with a separate emergency management director to those with the sheriff heading up emergency management to be about 50:50.
Emergency Management Director Emily Ring recently resigned and took a position in another county. In light of this, Baertschiger reported that there is an ongoing discussion regarding whether to hire a new emergency management director or hand the department over to Sheriff Dave Daniel.
The board chair said the “poorly written” article he referenced earlier “sparked quite a bit of controversy.”
“People thought that we’re going to get rid of (the Emergency Management Department) probably from a comment that they took out of context when I said, ‘Do we even need an Emergency Management Department?’” explained Baertschiger, “The reason I asked that question is because if the state stops the funding for those positions I don’t know how Josephine County could fund that position itself within the current budget we have. So that’s why that question was asked.”
Despite the uncertainty surrounding whether the position will even exist going into the future, the county is in the process of recruiting a replacement emergency management coordinator.
Later in the meeting, the topic of emergency management was brought up again courtesy of the renewal of an intergovernmental agreement between Josephine and Jackson counties. The longstanding agreement sees that a position exists to coordinate the respective emergency management strategies of the counties so that they complement each other in the event of an emergency requiring a joint response.
Baertschiger said this agreement was last renewed in 2020. The emergency management support services coordinator will continue to be employed by Jackson County.
“Josephine County and Jackson County have determined that it is in the best interest of each party to utilize the services of a single resource to ensure continuity and consistency in the oversight of various emergency management plans chaired by both counties in the support and assistance needed when an emergency is declared in one or both counties and in the interest of cost efficiency,” Baertschiger explained.
He added, “We’ll be sharing this individual that will help support our two emergency management departments and they’ll also be critical in interacting with the… Rogue Valley Integrated Fire Plan.”
The IGA passed with a unanimous vote of 3/0.