Emergency manager won’t be missed until there is an emergency
Summit County’s part-time emergency manager, Kevin Callahan, retired last month and his responsibilities have been turned over, for the time being, to Human Resources Director Brian Bellamy. The status of the position, Bellamy admits, is uncertain, pending the county council’s review of next year’s budget.
In the meantime, one glance at the nightly news suggests there is no shortage of random disasters lurking around the corner: floods, landslides, wildfires, random acts of violence and epidemics, to name a handful. It doesn’t seem like a good time to tempt fate.
With all due respect to Bellamy, who has always stepped in to fill critical vacancies when needed (he was the county’s interim manager before Bob Jasper was hired and, most recently, assumed responsibility for the leaderless animal control department) this is one job that deserves a dedicated manager.
Under Callahan’s direction, Summit County made important strides in emergency planning and training. With the support of newly available federal Homeland Security funds, he helped ensure that the county’s agencies, each very capable in their own area of expertise, knew how to communicate with each other.
That groundwork came in handy when the Weber River overflowed its banks and flooded several homes in Oakley. It also expedited the multi-agency response that prevented a major fire in Rockport Estates from claiming additional homes.
The question now is: who will pick up that binder that Callahan so carefully assembled and who will lead the table-top emergency training sessions that he instigated?
Park City has a full-time emergency manager and perhaps it is time for Summit County to do the same. According to the 2010 Census, Park City was serving 7,500 residents while Summit County, at the time, had nearly 30,000. Granted Park City’s population swells with visitors in the winter but so does Summit County’s and both have grown substantially since the last Census.
Over the next month, Park City and Summit County will be collaborating on a number of issues, Mountain Accord and the expansion of Park City Mountain Resort, for example. It might be useful to also discuss the possibility of combining Emergency Management resources.
In the meantime, waiting until the 2015 budget process is complete to decide on the fate of the county’s emergency manager position might be a grave mistake. The issue should be discussed as soon as possible with an eye toward hiring a replacement whether full or part-time as soon as possible. Leaving the position vacant is an invitation to disaster.
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