Thursday, September 10, 2009

MAST Is Definitely in Peril

Fresh back (well, after dinner and a moment of relaxing) from a lovely day at city hall. As already covered, Council member Johnson introduced an amendment to the MAST merger to city hall ordinance calling for immediate transfer to the purvey of the fire department. During the business meeting this generated 20 plus comments from the city council members. The debate continued into the city council chamber with three point of view emerging: 1) Don't change anything about MAST's structure or administration. 2) Bring MAST into city government as a separate department 3) Bring MAST into the city government as part of the fire department. Lynn Horsley, of the Star did a wonderful job getting the flavor of the debate in her report. The main council members who really participated and took an interest in the issue were Russ Johnson and Ed Ford of the second district, and John Sharp of the sixth district. Cindy Circo of the fifth district and Jan Marcason of the forth district were occasional contributors and Mayor Funkhouser got a big chunk of time during the council meeting to say his piece. It was harder to get a feel on the others: several, other than complaining they hadn't had a chance to read Johnson's amendment, really did not have much to say, and according to my notes, Cathy Jolly said nothing, or at least nothing noteworthy. Ed Ford, bless his heart, is against any change at this time. He takes the it ain't broke, don't fix it point of view. Sharp is in favor of changing MAST to being part of the city instead of a non-profit, free standing organization. He stated this would improve working conditions for MAST employees and insure their retirement. He states that in time, MAST might become part of the fire department, but not right now. He also doesn't want to move forward without a completed "blue ribbon committee" report. Some of the council members that didn't participate as much also had that point of view. Russ Johnson felt that MAST had lost top people, and there was a lot of unsettled feelings and situation, and it needed a certain conclusion now. Johnson felt that it was inevitable that merger into the FD was inevitable. The debate was detailed, and at times, contentious. I have lots of notes. There were references to things that caused Lesa, me and Yancy to look at each other, such as mention of a petition by MAST employees that indicated they wanted change. Huh? There may be other stuff buried in my chicken scratch that might bear mentioning later, after I review it all, and stew on it a bit.
So a vote was taken, result: 7 yea 6 nea. Yeas were Deb Herman, Russ Johnson, Beth Gottstein, Cindy Circo, Terry Riley, Cathy Jolly. Neas were Bill Skaggs, Ed Ford, Melba Curls, Sharon Sanders Brooks, Jan Marcason, and John Sharp. The vote was to accept Russ Johnson's amendment (which I have not seen written out, or on line at the city's web site) to bring MAST in under the auspices of the fire department, pending a public hearing next week.
So we'll have the hearing, hear from fire chief Smokey Dyer, and from the public, and we'll see what happens. Chief Dyer may be a great chief, but his EMS experience is thin. He helped administrate a two ambulance EMS unit in Lee's Summit 30 years ago. (not the six ambulance outfit LSFD is now.) This concerned citizen is considering some research into the ramifications of using 24 hour shifts as opposed to the flexible shifts MAST can use now. In addition, MAST now has great flexibility with numbers of ambulances. While the mobile posting is not ideal, it is hugely flexible, a great asset in our large (land space speaking) city. These might be some points for the council to ponder.
More to come for sure...

news links:

Kansas City Star: KC moves towards combining MAST with FD

KCTV5: Tensions rise over MAST merger

KMBC: Should MAST be run by FD?

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