Commission sends message to museums board; Ambulance budget not yet finalized

(Lander, Wyo.) – The Fremont County Commission, during its budget discussions on Tuesday, didn’t come to a determination on what to do with the Ambulance budget and decided to send a message to the Museums Board.

The commission approved by consensus to send the Museums Board a letter asking it to not hire a new director for the Pioneer Museum in Lander until it has effectively ruled out a single director system for the whole county.

A new management structure for the county museums has been proposed, and the commission told the board in the last couple weeks that they wanted to the idea further explored. The proposed system would have a single director to run the Dubois, Riverton and Lander museums who would oversee site managers/curators at each location.

Commissioner Keja Whiteman said she was concerned the board told her during its recent budget hearing that its priority was to accession artifacts. Accessioning is the process of detail inventorying for museums. Whiteman said the museums board should also be focusing on the local communities, public education and historic preservation.

“I would hate to think the whole purpose is just collecting,” she said.

Commission Chairman Doug Thompson said at one point in the past, inventory for the museums was a problem and the commission made it “their number one chore.”

“If we want to shift work order for them, we should probably make it clear,” he said.

Whiteman said it would help if the board had someone who could focus on management, budget issues and personnel.

Commissioner Stephanie Kessler, the liaison to the museums board, said the board has agreed to talk about the restructuring idea at a later date. The date has not yet been set. She said the board was taking it at “face-value” to simply look into the idea. Kessler noted that the board has begun reviewing candidates for the new Pioneer Museum director.

Commissioner Larry Allen suggested adjusting the board’s budget to allow for just one director and “force their hand.”

Thompson said he was not in favor of that idea because he asked the board to look into what’s best for the museums. “I don’t know if I can say what’s best,” he said, adding that he did like the idea of the single director proposal.

Kessler and Clerk Julie Freese said it appeared the Riverton Museum Director would be retiring around the turn of the year. The commission opted to ask the board not to hire a Lander director until options were fully explored. This way a new hire might not have to be let go quickly.

The commission also is expected to ask the board to not hold onto self-generated revenues, but use them for the museums. Thompson said those funds should be used for “enhancing the museum experience.” “Tell them not to sit on it,” he said.

Ambulance budget:

With the Fremont County Ambulance budget proposing a $1.2 million increase in expenditures, which would result in the department’s reserves nearly used up, the commission has yet to decide how to address it. The $3.3 million budget is down from an earlier requested $4 million.

Thompson’s main concern was the sustainability of the budget. While the department can absorb the cost internally for Fiscal Year 2014, he said the three options for moving forward in future years would be for the department to live within its revenues, have a general fund supplement or increase its rates for service.

In past meetings, Ambulance Director Lauri Wempen has also suggested looking into special EMS taxing districts or asking the municipalities for buy-in. Neither option was brought up by the commission during Tuesday’s discussion.

Whiteman said she appreciates the work that went into reducing the budget, but she feels some of the core issues haven’t been addressed. She wants to see the department work to bring in more volunteers and try to avoid moving up to 25 part-time EMTs to full time, as proposed.

Freese said she doesn’t think Wempen expects to spend everything that’s budgeted. “I don’t think she’s going to spend all of her money,” she said. “I just don’t see how that can happen. I think it’s a year-long project.”

The commission is expected to meet with Wempen on her budget further during its June 25 meeting.


  1. Michael Smith

    When are the Commissioners going to realize and start telling the public that ALL volunteers for the EMS are paid real money the only thing about volunteers is that they are not recruited per say and can show up when they want and if they want. Me thinks the some of the Commissioners wants things to go back to when EMS personnel were paid minimum wage and no, zero, zip nada overtime. Honestly John Q Public all of you citizens of Fremont County when you dial 911 do you honestly want a volunteer EMS in training with little or no certification to be the one to respond to your house or would you rather have a "Professional Staff of fully qualified EMS personal that is in place. Next time you go to your Doctor ask him or her which is a better mode of transporting heart attack victims, sever trauma patients, and persons with life threatening injuries to the Emergency Room – relying on the old old system of volunteers or our current staff of professionals then call your County Commissioner and share the results.

    Dear Commissioners please, please Look around State wide call other Counties EMS directors and see just what the attrition rate is for EMS personnel and find out first hand just how difficult it is to recruit personnel who will be dedicated enough to become certified beyond a basic EMS and stay with the job. The Casper Tribune ran an article several months ago about just how difficult it is to recruit and train "Qualified" and the operative word here is Qualified people to work and stay in the EMS field. I honestly feel it you took the time to research this you would have a better understanding of just what the Fremont County EMS service is doing and the problems they incur to insure that our County residents receive the critical care needed when transporting a sick or injured person to the hospital.

    I have a suggestion Travis Becker and Keja Whiteman why don't you cease to draw pay and volunteer along with all of your fellow commissioners as volunteer commissioners. Think of the savings the County could achieve over a ten year period and look at all of the out of work qualified persons with management experience such a move would bring to the table. Shucks if all of you seriously feel we can transport our seriously ill or injured County residents to the hospital with "volunteers instead of professionals why do we need you as paid members of our County governing body.

  2. Henri DeClercq

    While it would be great to be paid for a job that I give fully to as a volunteer, I take exception with the premise that volunteers are unprofessional , untrained, and unqualified. While I don't disagree with your idea of the commissioners volunteering (maybe they should do it in the emergency services field rather than their elected job though) your lines about volunteer instead of professionals is a bit too far. The volunteers of this county save the residents millions of dollars every year. Would the residents be willing to pay higher property taxes, license plate registration, etc… to pay all of the volunteers living wages and all the benefits?

  3. William Owens

    I am wondering where Ms. Whiteman purposes the EMS director find these volunteers? People need the time for volunteer services and EMS is more time consuming, demanding, and follows stricter scheduling which is extremely hard on their families. Other volunteer organizations are not normally needed on a daily basis, EMS is. As mentioned, by Michael Smith, commissioners will not pay overtime when volunteers do not show up for their shifts, full time personnel is forced to do these shifts for no extra pay. I'm not sure when actual working hours are averaged, if they get minimum wage. How important is a persons life? At least a few are willing to get paid nothing for helping with the most desperate of needs. Does it make sense to anyone why the county is willing to fully fund libraries, museums, recreation districts, fire departments etc. BUT NOT EMS? If my house catches on fire I need the fire department as quickly as possible. If said fire fighters suffer heat stroke, smoke inhalation, heart attack shouldn't the EMS be staffed well enough they could respond immediately? Not a real sure deal if they are under staffed because the commissioners want these services provided by volunteers. Mr. Thompsons wants the department to "live with in it reserves". How many other departments "live with in their reserves", do they have any reserves? Why don't a few commissioners take time to spend with EMS so they see first hand what is provided and what is needed. I know each department wants more money for their budgets (every year), you as commissioners need to decide which departments are most needed for the publics welfare, not an easy job. I wish you luck and pray your priorities are not clouded by not knowing the most detailed facts. – Eileen Owens.

  4. Michael Smith

    Henri I believe I said who do you want and EMS in training with little or no training or a professional. Under the current programs direction the leadership of the Fremont County is doing it's best to develop a highly trained staff of EMS personnel I apologize if you thought I was belittling volunteers in general as the Fremont County has some of the best in the State and many volunteers who started in the County EMS service performed to outstanding levels. In no was was I lumping all volunteers in the same bag my reference and the context of my comment was to the EMS service and the difficulty in recruiting and maintaining a staff of volunteers that will be available to answer a page 24/7 in addition the turnover rate is exceptionally high due to the demands and high stress level of the job.

    I do not know if you have looked in or ridden in one of the new rigs the EMS service is now using. The equipment contained therein is new up-to-date and rather sophisticated and it takes a lot of training for an EMT to be proficient using all of the newer live saving devices on board. One of my first jobs nearly 50 years ago was in a hospital next to Interstate 15 between Barstow California and Los Angeles and I also chased ambulances for about 2 years I have seen firsthand the turnover due to the type of work and demands it is not a job or service that just any one is emotionally equipped to deal with. My point is the Commissioners have little or no experience with the demands of health care and I seriously doubt that any of them has spent more than a cursory amount of time researching the field judging by the comments made at recent budget sessions. I honestly feel instead of pointing and banging fingers on the table they ought to be listening and being a part of helping solve the problem instead making unrealistic demands.

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