EMS staffing in Clearwater falls far short of target


By Sam Jack

CLEARWATER – Sedgwick County EMS director Kevin Lanterman, and assistant director Angela Hamilton, attended the Clearwater City Council meeting on Dec. 13, providing information and answering council members’ questions about EMS staffing in and around the city.
A unit called Community Response Vehicle 81 (CRV 81) is stationed in Clearwater, providing EMT and paramedic assistance but not hospital transportation.
SCEMS’s stated target is to staff CRV 81 for 12 hours a day, seven days a week. But the service fell short of that goal in 2022. Through the first 11 months of the year, CRV 81 was staffed for 2,746.75 hours – 32 percent below the target of 4,008 hours. The unit went unstaffed on 98 days.
Lanterman said that the struggle to fully staff CRV 81 is part and parcel of a larger staffing struggle that SCEMS is experiencing countywide.
“I wish we could just flip a switch and solve our staffing problems immediately, but we knew it’d be a year or two minimum to get to where we were fully staffed,” he said. “Currently, we have 24 vacant paramedic positions, and by the end of the year, that will be down to 10. Another four graduate in April.
“Hopefully, knock on wood, our retention stays up. … What that means is that our ambulances will be staffed more regularly, and in turn, the CRV will be staffed more regularly,” Lanterman said.
Mayor Burt Ussery asked Lanterman if SCEMS is committed to continuing the CRV program. Lanterman answered in the affirmative.
“A selling point of a CRV, to us, was the fact that having the ambulance here immediately is not the issue if you have someone on site, patient-side,” Ussery said. “We have sold that to this community, the fact that when the CRV’s there, if it takes 18 or 19 minutes for the ambulance to get here, no one notices, because there is someone here taking care of that person.
“I appreciate what you do,” Ussery said. There’s no question that we value what Sedgwick County does, and I understand you have a whole county to take care of, but I have a city to take care of.”
In other business:
• The council voted unanimously to approve a resolution accepting a donation of land from Bill Hammers and family. The plan is to turn the donated land into a new city park, to be named the Hammers Prairie Park and Nature Center.
• The council voted unanimously to approve an industrial revenue bond ordinance for Plains Cotton Cooperative Association. PCCA will receive an 80 percent discount on city property taxes for a period of 10 years. This is pursuant to an agreement that was reached in April 2020. The exemption does not include taxes levied by the local school district.
• The council approved an ordinance setting false fire alarm and false security alarm fees, and establishing a process to be followed if people do not agree with a fee they receive. There is no fee for the first false alarm, and the fees escalate after that, with the fee for a 10th false alarm set at $750.
• The council voted 3-2 to dissolve the Senior Advisory Board. Crystal Walter, Tex Titterington and Tim Robbins voted yes, while Justin Shore and Chad Pike voted no.
The board had been dormant for more than seven years. Senior center director Amber Ives said that she regularly engages with center participants on a less formal basis, and takes their input into account as she plans programs and activities throughout the year.
• City public workers spoke with Herb Lampkin of K&O Railroad about how the railroad crossing at North Tracy and Wood Avenue has been pushed upward overtime. Lampkin said he has no plans to repair the crossing. Mayor Ussery said he would not characterize the issue as a “bump,” but rather as a safety hazard. He said he’d like for the city to write a formal letter to K&O expressing that it needs to be fixed.
• The council approved an ordinance allowing vehicles and trailers to be parked in side yards or backyards, with no requirement to park on a paved surface, so long as no part of the vehicle or trailer extends past the front eave of the house. Houses on corner lots will be considered to have two front yards. The ordinance also clears up duplicate language about handicapped parking and clearance for traffic.
• Council members reviewed a staff report on the possibility of lowering speed limits on residential streets from 30 to 20 miles per hour. Reducing the speed limit would increase the safety of pedestrians, but 20 mile-per-hour speed limit signs would need to be installed throughout the city, at significant expense. City administrator Courtney Zollinger also noted that it’s not clear that lowering the speed limit would be consistent with the desires of city residents, and she recommended conducting community surveys to learn more. The council took no formal action.
• The council approved a staff salary resolution for 2023. Most city employees are getting a raise of around 3 percent.
• Chiropractor Karl May again spoke during the public forum, reiterating his complaints about street parking in front of his business being unavailable during evening public events when Ross Avenue is closed to traffic. He also complained about what he called inadequate communication from city staff.
• The council approved an ordinance rezoning the Park Glen Estates Second Addition from Planned Unit Development to R-1 Single Family Residential. Developer Shaun Weaver was planning to develop the second addition to follow R-1 anyway, and he did not object to the change.
• The council approved a housekeeping ordinance to remove the position of Emergency Services Director and reestablish the position of fire chief.
• The council approved an ordinance repealing registration and permits for right-of-way maintenance. The registration scheme was implemented in 2018 and is now judged unnecessary.