By Brandi Makuski
County Executive Patty Dreier on Thursday announced a new measure proposing broad changes to the county’s emergency management system.
At the Jan. 18 EMS Oversight Committee, Dreier announced she planned to formally request at next week’s Public Safety Committee meeting what she described as a “split” for emergency management.
The proposal comes just weeks following the resignation of Emergency Management Director Joe Brandt.
“What I realized as I was working myself through this transition with Mr. Brandt, is that emergency medical services continues to divert services away from emergency management, over and over again—whether it’s the conflicts, or the oversight, it has taken away from EM, and it’s caused instability in the EM stability of our mission.”
Under Dreier’s proposal, emergency management would no longer be its own department, instead becoming organized within the Portage Co. Sheriff’s Office, and directly overseen by Chief Deputy Dan Kontos, who was not immediately available for comment.
Sheriff Mike Lukas said he has researched the idea since being elected three years ago, and recommended the change to Dreier, but he deferred all comments to the county executive’s office until the Jan. 24 Public Safety Committee.
Drier said the proposal might seem strange to someone outside of emergency management, but makes sense in modern terms.
“The nature of emergency management is changing; we’re no longer dealing with primarily storms,” Dreier said. “We’re dealing with active shooters, bombs, that require a greater interconnectedness with law enforcement.”
Drier said the move would also open the county to additional FEMA grant dollars, which could help offset operating costs within emergency management.
Brandt was the county’s fifth emergency management director in the past five years. He resigned in late December, then rescinded his resignation, only to resign again a week later for unknown reasons. The embattled director had been the subject of an investigation regarding inappropriate comments he made against the Stevens Point Fire Department, and for lying to the city about his wife, Dr. Sarah Brandt, having been fired from her position as the county’s medical director. She also reportedly resigned from her position with the county in December.
“This is a really delicate, sensitive time for emergency management,” Dreier said. “This change would bring a level of stability we’re been seeking.”
The changes are up for discussion at 7 AM on Wednesday, Jan. 24. The Public Safety Committee meets in the Training Room of the Law Enforcement Training Center, 1500 Strongs Ave., and is open to the public.