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  • Charlene Sims, Journal staff

State-mandated county emergency committee has not met for several years

Updated: Sep 9, 2022

MOUND CITY – Over the past couple of weeks, the Linn County Commissioners have discussed setting term limits on commissioner-appointed members on the county’s boards and committees. Commissioner Rick James has said he believes that citizens sitting on county boards should be on there no longer than two terms.

What they likely weren’t expecting to hear on Monday, Aug. 29, is that the chair of one county committee had not called a meeting for several years, and as a result, state officials were pressing the county to revive that state-mandated committee soon.

After telling the commissioners that the only information that he could find on the Fire Board were members names but not term expirations, Linn County Fire Chief and Emergency Management Coordinator Randy Hegwald brought up the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC).

Hegwald said that he and the emergency planner Linda Simons had been working on the emergency plans if something happened at the courthouse and where the different departments would set up their offices. He said that they had gotten all the hazard mitigation plans completed and sent to the state.

He explained that the LEPC looked at what the county, cities, school districts, health department would do in the case of a catastrophe in Linn County. Representatives from each one of those entities had been on the committee.

He said that he was updating the contacts for the LEPC but had learned that the chair of the board had not been calling meetings and the state was coming down on the county for not keeping these meetings up to date. In fact, it may have not been active for several years.

According to Hegwald, the state requires that the LEPC meet quarterly to go over reactions to possible emergency situations in the county.

According to the Kansas Division of Emergency Management (KDEM) brochure, LEPCs work to understand the hazards in the community, develop emergency plans in case of an accidental release or natural disaster, and look for ways to prevent accidents. The role of LEPCs is to form a partnership between local governments and industries to enhance all hazards preparedness.

The local government is responsible for hazmat planning and response within their jurisdiction.

Hegwald plans to scrub the existing committee members and start fresh.

Commission Chair Jim Johnson said that he thought his wife, Pam Johnson, had been a representative on that board when she was a school nurse at Prairie View school district.

The commissioners agreed that Hegwald and Simons should go to Mulvane for the Kansas Emergency Management Association (KEMA) conference. The date of the conference is Sept. 13-16.

Hegwald gave his report for the fire department. There were 13 runs the past week. Four were grass fires, three were cancelled en route, one was a tractor fire, one a brush fire, one a medical assist, one an automobile accident with injury, one automobile without injury and one animal rescue.

Hegwald also reported that the fire department had a training where a house in Prescott had smoke machines put in it so firefighters could train under those conditions. Thirty firefighters turned out, which was about 50 percent of the firefighters on staff. Six of the seven stations were represented there.

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