Measures also taken for PPE access during EMA director sick leave
Now that Piatt County has secured access to stored personal protective equipment, it is working to get its EMA truck back, and will be willing to tow it from its Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Holmes' house in Tuscola if needed.
With Holmes out on sick leave since Sept. 30, the issue of access to PPE was addressed by taking off a lock that only the EMA director had access to and putting on another.
“I want to say thanks for the willingness to help us out, because without the sanitizer it brings our entire program down,” said Piatt County Mental Health Center Director Tony Kirkman. “That sanitizer is part of a plan we send to DHS (Illinois Department of Human Services).”
As for the EMS 2014 Chevy Silverado, it is owned by the county, but Holmes typically keeps it at home when not on duty. He has said in the past that he needs to be able to respond quickly emergencies instead of driving to Monticello to pick up the county vehicle.
The Piatt County board emergency management agency committee voted on Oct. 21 to change that arrangement, approving a motion to get the truck back to county offices in Monticello.
“It is the county's property,” said committee member Shannon Carroll.
Hopes are that the EMA Director will turn over the key voluntarily, but committee members said they will tow and re-key it if need be.
Ray Spencer, another committee member and county board chairman, said the moves are being made because of uncertainty as to when Holmes will be back to work. His current sick leave ran out Oct. 20, but Spencer said a request for FMLA from Holmes could be forthcoming.
“That could be up to 12 weeks,” said Spencer. “I'm not sure when he will be back.”
The nature of his illness was not disclosed.
If the situation drags on further, an interim EMA director may be needed, said the committee. DeWitt/Piatt Bi-County Health Department employee Mike Schroeder told them he could help out, especially with the distribution of PPE.
“With it being technically considered a public health emergency, a public health pandemic, if you need someone to manage the PPE, I would rather put more on my plate than have critical services go without the PPE essentials for their safety,” said Schroeder.
In the meantime, two people will need to be present when PPE is given out, with proper paperwork also required.
The committee also voted to get access to the county's internet domain to third-party IT company Viscom.
Holmes helped get the .gov domain active in 2019, but Viscom spokesman E.C. Gupton said it is better for control to be out of the hands of a county employee.
“He had great intentions,” said Gupton of the effort to get the county to a more secure domain, especially for emails. “But it's time to move it to a third-party vendor,” he added, noting it can be a time concern for a county employee to manage.
Gupton said Viscom was granted some access when he requested it from Holmes, but not the global access the company needs.
Spencer said the county first needs to determine the status of Holmes' sick leave, and hopes he will give Viscom global access now that it has been formally requested by the committee. If that does not happen, there are workarounds that can be made, but would take time.
“It would be simply he he granted access,” said Spencer.
Related to the Silverado, Spencer said Assistant State's Attorney Elizabeth Dobson gave her opinion that it is “exempt from personal taxation.” That means that, even though it has been used by Holmes to commute, it will not have be claimed on his personal taxes.
Dobson said it is exempt because it is designed to carry cargo with a loaded gross vehicle weight more than 14,000 points, and that magnetic signage indicates that it is a Piatt County Emergency Management vehicle.
Carroll suggested the county place more permanent decals on the truck when it is back their possession so that it always displays the county identifier.