The Pottawatomie County Commission on Monday issued a state of local disaster emergency declaration as the area’s healthcare system feels the strain of the COVID pandemic.

Jennifer Merrow, director of emergency management, presented the commission with a resolution, saying it would allow flexibility with staffing to best care for patients.

The commission heard an example of the strain with staffing issues at Community Healthcare System (CHCS) in Onaga.

County health department Director Leslie Campbell reported to county commissioners that the hospital is only able to staff 12 to 16 of its 25 acute care beds, and CHCS reports that twice in the 10 days, the hospital had to go into emergency department diversion because of capacity issues.

If continued diversion is necessary, the options are to stop elective surgical services, cut medical clinic hours, stop OB services, and cease giving monoclonal antibodies. Officials said this would allow for the allocation of staff to the area of greatest need.

“Staffing is thin,” Campbell said, “and if staff outbreak or family members are positive, the system may be forced to close temporarily for services.”

The declaration will remain in effect until it is rescinded.

New ambulance

Commissioners approved buying a new ambulance for $231,500.

The price of the 2023 Osage Type I Super Warrior ambulance with a 2023 Ram 5500 was within the approved budget.

EMS director Hal Bumgarner reported the department’s 2015 and 2016 Chevys are scheduled to be replaced, and he planned to trade in the 2015.

Chad Kinsley, county administrator, suggested looking into auctioning the vehicle rather than doing a trade. Commissioner Greg Riat agreed with Kinsley.

Officials said the new ambulance should arrive in 2023.

Conditional use permits

County administrators are proposing that commissioners become involved in the approval process for conditional use permits.

Because they don’t involve zoning changes, the Planning Commission currently approves conditional use permits, which aren’t required to be brought before the county commissioners.

Stephan Metzger, with the office of Planning and Zoning, said the Planning Commission wants to leave the process as is, but suggested that the county follow the legal standard.

“The legal standard is to bring CUPs to the Planning Commission, and if they are approved, they should then be reviewed by the Board of Commissioners for final approval,” he said.

County Counselor John Watt “strongly recommended” the change to essentially treat conditional use permits like zoning changes.

“In my view, if you keep your current process with CUPs, it’s an invitation to a lawsuit,” he said.

Commissioner Greg Riat requested to delay any vote on the issue to allow for a future joint work session with the Planning Commission.

Commission

reorganization

The commission reorganized on Monday with Commissioner Pat Weixelman serving as chair and Riat as co-chair.

As part of the reorganization, the county named The Times of Pottawatomie County, owned by Seaton Publishing Company, as the official county newspaper.

The Times will continue to publish legal notices through the paper in 2022.