Thursday, February 12, 2015

E911 In Iron County Michigan

On January 12, 2015, I was awakened by my
spouse, Gloria, in the small hours of the morning,
“I feel terrible. I need to go to the hospital, please
call for an ambulance,” she said.

I did. But it took a very long time for the ambulance
to arrive. Investigation disclosed that the one ambulance
on duty was engaged in the transport of a patient out
of the county, and another crew had to be awakened in
order to put another ambulance into service.

Is this what passes as acceptable in Iron County in 2015?

As far as I know, there are three ambulances attached
to Aspirus/Northstar Hospital here in Iron County. It
should be standard practice that as soon as the on
duty ambulance is assigned to transport duty, another
should immediately be placed in service, no? How can
we have a 911 service in Iron County and then leave
gaps in the emergency services coverage backing it
up? This is unacceptable!

On June 10, 1969, my wife at that time, Earline,
was enroute to her mother’s home in Georgia. She
was involved in an auto accident, of her own making,
and was ejected from the car (seat belts were not
standard issue as yet). The state police were on
scene fairly quickly, and a call was made to the
nearest hospital to dispatch an ambulance. The time
of day was approximately 2PM, just past lunch. Then
began a mad hunt for the ambulance driver who was
not on station and could not be found. He had the keys
to the ambulance in his pocket. It took more than an
hour to find him, drunk and passed out at a girlfriend’s
apartment, and another hour or so to sober him up to
drive because he was, according to reports, the only
one trained and insured to drive the rig.

In the meantime our three daughters, aged 6, 4, and
2 were in the car watching as their mother died
alongside the road. I was at work at Farmingdale,
New York, at the time. So North Carolina of 1969
meets Iron County, Michigan, 2015 in the inability to
provide speedy emergency services. Fortunately this
time no one died. But that’s a disaster waiting to
happen, and now you've been warned that the
problem exists.

While they were getting the crew assembled in
January 12, 2015, I asked the 911 dispatcher if
she couldn't send me a police car so I could have
help getting Gloria into the car so I could take her
to the hospital. No assistance ever came, and all the
time Gloria, on blood thinners for atrial fib, was (as
I suspected) bleeding internally. No thanks to an
ineffective emergency system that’s at work here
in Iron County, Gloria survived the ordeal and will
be coming home from rehab and recovering at
ICMCF tomorrow, 13 February. I have only nice
things to write about ICMCF. If Iron County can
get that service so right, the capacity is there to
repeat such success in other essential services. So
what's keeping you from it, Iron County Board?

Why isn't the Iron County Board aware of this
apparently regular lapse of service here in Iron
County? What about someone bleeding to death
from an auto accident? The entire premise of
having a 911 service is to save time, and
property or lives, by having rapid response that
does not exist despite the County Board's
promise that such service is available.

When the Iron County Hospital was created, the
county operated that entity and provided ambulance
service. The hospital was spun off as a separate
not-for-profit entity, and the ambulance service
with it. So long as the hospital and ambulances
were operated on a not-for-profit basis, ambulance
service was available on a 24/7/365 basis. In this
lightly populated region with an aging population it
is no surprise that the hospital had to be turned
over to a for-profit entity, in this case Aspirus.
No one can blame Aspirus for trying to get costs
under control after years of the same sorts of bad
practices by the Board of Directors as has been
destroying local governments, practices that were
financially destroying the hospital to the tune of
perhaps a million dollars (or more) per year.

But emergency services is NOT a profit center,
nor can they be treated as one, while maintaining
the levels of service that are necessary in this aging
community. So since Aspirus/Northstar cannot
provide the ambulance service, then Iron County
needs to step up and take over the service once
again. I would hate to see Northstar and Iron
County as defendants in a wrongful death lawsuit,
especially once they have both been warned that
when you claim to fill the emergency services
niche, you better follow through or step aside to
allow someone else to provide the service.

This is not an item that can withstand delay.
Wait and someone, sooner or later, will
unnecessarily die. A profit vs. death case is
not going to be looked at favorably by any jury.

I attended the County Board meeting on
February 10, 2015 because the public comments
minutes was placed near the beginning of the
meeting. But that was illegally changed by the
Chair during the meeting (it should have been
changed when other aspects of the agenda were
modified.) I was not willing to sit through a long
meeting (it ended up being and hour and 45
minutes) as one of the three unpaid individuals

So congratulations to the County Board on two
fronts for failing to provide the best service to
those who elected them. First you fail to provide
an effective and necessary emergency services
while cashing in on the E911 taxes, income, and
governmental advantages of the paternalism it

Then you structure meetings in a way least
advantageous to those the meeting is supposed to
benefit. You’ve also taught me to avoid meetings
like the plague. I was hopeful that this county
board would be more prepared to benefit the
public, I had more important things to do than to
sit through a lengthy meeting that offered little to
interest me. As it was, I didn’t arrive home till
8 PM, and had I played the little games of “public
comment comes last” it would have been an
hour later yet.

So wake up, board members, and stop this failure
to provide emergency services promptly. Either
assure that we, the taxpayers, either have a timely
ambulance service provided by Aspirus/Northstar,
or provide the service yourselves, probably the
only way to assure compliance. This notification,
personally delivered to County offices tomorrow,
terminates any plausible deniability you may have
had about this problem.

Bill Vajk

Mayor Tarsi’s Management Style

Terry Tarsi, Mayor of the City of Iron River, provided
a letter published by the Iron County Reporter in the
February 4, 2015, issue.  Two things emerged as a
result of this letter. First, close to a half million dollars
of tax money paid by Iron River property owners
went to improving the old Central School that has
subsequently been converted into apartments in
private ownership. Considering that it had been owned
by the State of Michigan, we, the public, would have
been better served had the state dealt with the property.
Certainly we would not have been on the hook for
close to half a million dollars. In all reality, it should
have been demolished by its owner, the school district,
back in the 1970’s when the population was larger and
the economic impact would have been much smaller.
Buildings here in the US have a relatively short viable
economic life. How much tax revenue is the converted
central school providing to the community? How long
will it take for the citizens to “break even,” if ever, on this
project? Mayor Tarsi says he believes that the Apple
Blossom Apartments project was in the best interests of
the city and the taxpayers, but he offers nothing to back
up what he clearly states is his opinion. Is it any surprise
that we wonder about this? The 1960’s expression
“lip service” comes to mind once again.

Now Mayor Tarsi wants to spend another half a million
taxpayer dollars to demolish the Coast to Coast building,
a property and problem that the current city
administration rather stupidly purchased from the State
of Michigan. It should have been left to the state to deal
with this problem but oh no, the elected officials, while
claiming to want the best for the citizens, insist on
misspending funds that should be expended to maintain
streets and other municipal infrastructure, but instead
rather turn street lights off and streets “temporarily”
closed to traffic because they’re too deteriorated to use,
while creating a small city owned half-million vacant lot
downtown. Temporarily closed, my foot.

And what’s a few thousand spent to sponsor dog
races lasting a weekend while the city is shutting off
street lights to save money! The dog race expenditure
was challenged by a citizen in a city council meeting.
She was promptly dismissed by Mayor Tarsi stating
the city attorney deemed the expenditure legal.
Unfortunately, it seems to this writer, that Tarsi and
the city council apparently didn't rely on any “smart
or stupid” paradigm in this decision making process.

And la crème de la crème was Tarsi’s statement in
the February 4th letter, “I will not get into an editorial
debate, but I am available for a live discussion on
ther city-owned properties.”

The simple question, Mayor Tarsi, is who died and
left you the position of emperor of Iron River. You
are a servant of the people, not vice versa. We’re
not finished discussing the Apple Blossom Apartments
let alone the Coast to Coast building. Perhaps nothing
can be done about the building and contracts, but that
doesn't mean the discussion is over by your say so. The
entire matter of city planning for the future is wide open
because of any number of stupidities undertaken in the
name of the people. For example, the city has
complained for years about the jut-outs on Genesee
Street and the difficulties they create for snow plowing.
After about thirty years of experience with the problem
layout, last year the city rebuilt Genesee Street using the
same, complained about, layout. Don’t you people learn
from past mistakes?

For a recorded example of Mayor Tarsi’s management
style we need only refer to a meeting where he was running
a city council meeting:

It appears to this writer that if it isn’t going the way
Tarsi wants, he’ll threaten to have the citizen legitimately
expressing his opinion removed by force. It is this writer’s
opinion that Tarsi’s demand to take discussions to a
personal level is because he has every advantage in
such a forum.  Before witnesses Mayor Tarsi bragged
to your humble correspondent that he doesn't read
anything, rather he has his wife decide what is worth
his time to deal with.

Given the illiteracy rate in Iron County, we are led to
wonder at what grade level does Mayor Tarsi read.
This is not intended as an insult to the Mayor (not
that I have any objection to insulting him when
deserved,) but rather a call for recognizing another
reason why this community isn't thriving as it should,
possibly including city government, making the
question, under the circumstances, valid. On the
surface, a well read person generally makes a
better public official in a community if all other
considerations are equal. It is clear that Mayor
Tarsi is not well read.

Given all the above, perhaps a literacy test
requirement before running for public office
ought to be imposed in Iron County. I am
reminded that Marci Vess, who voluntarily
helped a number of local high school graduates
learn to read, died last year. I hope that someone
else has or will step up to close this void left by
Marci’s demise. The task requires willingness,
kindness, and lots of patience. The community
is just that much poorer for her absence, and
I write this as someone who had his share of
disagreements with Marci on other matters.

The shame resulting from illiteracy generates a
very high price imposed on all of society.

As usual, all the above is the opinion of:

Bill Vajk

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