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OES director updates County Commission

Suzette Lowe
Jackson Newspapers

A normal part of the Jackson County Commission meetings include reports from various agencies such as 911 and emergency medical services. With restrictions during the pandemic, those in-person reports have been delayed.

At the Aug. 26 meeting, Operation of Emergency Services (OES) director Walt Smittle, updated Commissioners Dick Waybright, Mitch Morrison, and Mike Randolph on a number of items.

Since March, Smittle has been working on grants for various projects, including a generator for the Green Center and cameras for law enforcement to read license plates. He is hopeful both will be awarded.

Understandably, the OES Director’s greatest focus has been on COVID-19. Multiple meetings, updates and reports have been required. Research is also a large part of Smittle’s job. As a result of that research, he had two major recommendations for the Commissioners to consider.

Smittle stressed the importance of having an efficient and effective means of decontamination. With the CARES Act or a COVID Block Grant, there may be funds to purchase a hydrogen peroxide decontamination unit.

“This machine could be set in an ambulance and sanitize it completely in five minutes,” Smittle said. “It could sanitize the courthouse as well.”

Because fund requests are sometimes inexplicably denied by the state, Smittle said the Emergency Management Council is submitting a position paper to the governor recommending that each county be supplied with two machines.

“This is the answer to a problem that we’re faced with,” he said. “Our crews do a fantastic job sanitizing by hand but this misting machine can get into every crevice. The cost is about $23,000 each, including supplies that will last a good while. It’s well worth it.”

Commissioners suggested, and Smittle agreed, that the Jackson County Board of Education be informed about this possibility as well. Once clarification on spending from the governor’s office is received, the purchase will be addressed.

Smittle also recommended that the county purchase additional personal protective equipment (PPE) for first responders and healthcare providers, rotating the supplies for quality control.

“We have a pretty good stock but it won’t last forever and we need to be prepared for future pandemics,” he said. “We can store more in our unit in Kenna.”

One final recommendation of Smittle concerned other agencies. He requested that the Commission approve letters or certificates of commendation for the Jackson County Health Department and Ripley Fire Department Chief Rick Gobble.

“The health department has done an outstanding job, working untold hours,” Smittle said. “And Rick and his fire department have taken care of the hand sanitizer distribution which eased my job tremendously.”

Smittle said he would prepare the certificates for consideration.

In other business, Commissioners:

• Approved contract with Abstar Abatement & Installation for asbestos testing prior to work on the CFIA grant HVAC Phase I project in the amount of $490

• Retroactively approved the donation of two law enforcement vehicles to the Ravenswood City Police Department

• Acknowledged the resignation of Solid Waste Authority member Amanda Painter

• Approved Bernard Bishop as part-time airport worker

The next meeting of the commission will be at 9:30 a.m. on Sept. 2, at the Jackson County Courthouse.