EMTs pack VB meeting in support of EMS Association

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX —  The Colfax village clerk’s office was filled to standing room only with EMTs who came to show their support for the Colfax EMS Association and the association’s officers.

Jessica Erickson, president of the Colfax EMS Association, spoke during the public comments portion of the Colfax Village Board’s November 26 meeting.

At issue was the November 12 village board meeting when Erickson and Travis Booreson, vice-president of the EMS Association, attended the meeting to present grant money to purchase a back-up generator for the Colfax Rescue Squad.

Prior to the village board accepting the grant money, Village Trustee Chris Olson lectured Erickson and Booreson about the proper procedure to apply for grant money and that the procedure must include permission from the village board before EMS Association members begin seeking grant funds for equipment purchases.

The remaining village board members had little to say at the November 12 meeting, and overall, the episode left the impression that the Colfax Village Board was not happy with the EMS Association’s fund-raising efforts that benefit all of the residents who live in the townships and villages served by the Colfax Rescue Squad.

At the November 26 meeting, Erickson said that the Colfax EMS Association had, indeed, followed the protocol of speaking to Don Knutson, rescue squad director, who then in turn spoke to Jackie Ponto, village administrator clerk-treasurer, about obtaining funds to pay for the back-up generator

Ponto said that in the future, she would appreciate it if Erickson would accompany Knutson when he speaks to her about grants and equipment purchases.

Erickson said she also believed there may have been something of a misunderstanding among village board members and that the EMS Association was not purchasing the back-up generator but was donating the funds for the generator.

“We were coming to present the money. It was disheartening the way we were treated,” Erickson said.

Code of Conduct

Erickson went on to say that the “scolding” she and Booreson had received at the November 12 village board meeting felt like “a personal vendetta.”

All Colfax EMS Association members sign a code of conduct when they become members, and Erickson said she expected the Colfax Village Board to also have a standard of conduct for public officials.

Following the November 12 village board meeting, Erickson said she had heard that village board members were denigrating the EMS Association in conversations in public that were outside of the village board’s meeting room.

If village board members talk around town about how unhappy they are with the protocol followed by the Colfax EMS Association or that they are unhappy with equipment purchases funded by the EMS Association’s efforts, it could damage the association’s reputation among community members, Erickson said.

“I heard that rumor, but I hope it’s not happening,” she said.

Village Trustee Susan Olson said she had missed several meetings and was not sure she had all of the pertinent facts, which was the reason she did not speak up in support of the EMS Association at the November 12 meeting.

“Jessica has been representing the association well,” said Mark Halpin, acting village president in the absence of Gary Stene and chair of the public safety committee.

Erickson said she wanted to improve communication with the village and invited Ponto to attend all of the EMS Association’s meetings as a liaison.

Events

In 2012, the Colfax EMS Association has held a pancake breakfast and a bike rodeo. During the rodeo, two new bicycles were given away along with 33 bike helmets, Erickson noted.

EMS Association members also did a texting and driving presentation at Colfax High School and Elk Mound High School, requiring association members to take time off from work. The Colfax EMS Association gave away two $50 gift cards as part of the high school presentations, she said.

The Colfax EMS Association sponsors two needy families at Christmas as well, and the association has raised substantial funds toward the purchase of two Lifestat units, for updated maps of the Colfax Rescue Squad’s service area and for the back-up generator, she said.

“In the future, we have more events planned,” Erickson said.

The Colfax EMS Association also has participated in a variety of events, such as EMS Awareness Week and fire department and rescue squad events in Elk Mound and Sand Creek.

And the Colfax EMS Association has launched their second year of raffle calendar sales to raise money for the rescue squad.

Erickson invited Colfax Village Board members to participate in the Colfax Rescue Squad’s ride-along program, “so you can see what we do. You are all welcome.”

Erickson said that if village board members have concerns about the EMS Association, events, or fund-raising efforts, those concerns should be addressed in writing to Erickson and Booreson.

“Please censor yourself about what is said in public,” she said.

Erickson went on to say that she appreciated the village board taking the time to listen to her comments, that she considered the incident a “closed case,” and that she apologized for any breakdown in communications.

“This is not an issue. We will move on,” Halpin said.