Mayor is not going to hire EMTs, then he is

Riley Hutchens posts resignation letter online
Kathleen Gilluly
Wednesday, November 27, 2019
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The Laurel City Council meets weekly on Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. The meeting agendas can be found at cityoflaurelmontana.coms. The Outlook live-streams the meetings on Facebook.

Laurel’s Mayor Tom Nelson confirmed during a Tuesday morning phone call that he has put a stop to the process of hiring full-time Emergency Medical Technicians for the ambulance service. As reported previously, the mayor had committed to hiring five, and then three, full-time EMTs to bolster the ambulance service’s response rate and effectiveness.

After hearing of the mayor’s decision, Riley Hutchens, who has been acting as director of the ambulance service posted a letter of resignation to the city’s EMS website on Facebook.

“I spoke to Riley last night briefly and tried asking him some questions,” the mayor said. “My plan is to get someone in place soon, but it’s a work in progress.”

The mayor said that since he isn’t an EMT professional, he needs to get advice from one before proceeding with the hiring.

“I’m the guy who is responsible for what happens,” he said, “and I’ll go back to my old adage, ‘I don’t do anything that isn’t in the best interests of the city.’”

Mayor Nelson reported that the positions had been posted and the city was preparing to interview, but he decided he first needs to find out how the scheduling will work, how the paid employees will interact with the volunteers and what new equipment may be needed. When asked who is going to handle the scheduling now that Hutchens has resigned, the mayor replied, “I have no idea.”

The following is the letter posted by Hutchens. He did respond to an email and in a phone call after the Outlook spoke to the mayor said he hopes something good comes from this.

“I urge everyone to have a level head, get along with your neighbors and seek positive change,” he said.

Dear Citizens of the City of Laurel:

I have just received word from Mayor Thomas Nelson that he is not proceeding with hiring full-time EMTs to staff our ambulance service to ensure expanded coverage. I believe the mayor has taken the advice of external sources that have promoted improper governance of this city. This decision threatens the health and safety of all citizens, but particularly the elderly, children, and the special needs who depend on our services so much.

I would like to thank all of the dedicated prehospital professionals of the past and the present who have risked their lives to protect this city and treat the sick & injured. Your courage and service over the past 44 years have directly impacted the outcome of so many people who looked to you to save them.

Emergency Medical Services will continue on a volunteer basis for as long as possible, or until another solution is designed.

That being said, I can no longer serve as EMS Director or a care provider under this administration. It has been an absolute privilege to serve the citizen’s of this city for the past several years of my life. There have been a plethora of very influential people that have taught and guided me along the way. I would especially like to thank Jan Faught, Kara Hergenrider, and Brent Peters. Your presence in my life has meant more to me than you probably know. These individuals, and many more, have guided me in my passion for emergency medical services and public safety. I wish all citizens safety, luck, and good health in the future.

Best, Riley Hutchens

Hutchens resignation leaves the ambulance service without a director, although Mayor Nelson said he wasn’t confident that Hutchens was really resigning. According to the mayor, the volunteers in the department currently number in the “high twenties.”

As reported in the Nov. 14 edition of the Outlook, fire drivers, or volunteers from the Laurel Volunteer Fire Department can no longer assist by driving ambulances. Without fire drivers, the response to ambulance calls falls because there have to be two qualified personnel in attendance, according to state law.

Update: This was posted at noon on Tuesday, past the Outlook’s deadline, on the City of Laurel’s Emergency Medical Service’s Facebook page:

“Mayor Tom Nelson has agreed to proceed with the hiring of five emergency medical technicians, which are expected to begin work the first week of January 2020.

We would like to thank all citizens from Laurel and across the nation for your support. Emergency Medical Services are an essential service. People’s lives and families depend on having an ambulance available. We would also like to remind everybody that this is just the beginning. There ARE plans in place for the future of this agency.”

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