County’s safety response team a surprise to some supervisors

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Heavy discussion was prevalent at the Washington County Board of Supervisors meeting on June 17 after a resolution discussed was related to the Washington County Facility Safety Response Team, a unit unknown to several supervisors.

A resolution to amend the Washington County employee identification policy raised questions for town supervisors after mention of the county’s Facility Safety Response Team.

The resolution that was approved by the Washington County Board of Supervisors on June 17 read: “Whereas, the Facility Safety Response Team has reviewed this policy and recommend(s) some changes to reflect how the operation is currently working, such as IDs are issued by the Department of Public Safety instead of Personnel, and Identification Update Request Form.”

However, Hartford supervisor Dana Haff asked his 16 fellow supervisors if they had ever heard of the response team, the responsibilities of the members and who made up the team.

“Sorry to be a pain here technicality wise, but I’ve been on the Public Safety Committee for 12 years and until these resolutions, I had never ever heard of the Facilities Safety Response Team,” Haff said.

“I’m going to vote yes on these but I would like Public Safety to vet, when was this team created? Who was this team created by? Am I the only one that had never heard of this team? My concern, and I want my fears to be set aside and I want to be proven wrong, I suspect that people created their own team and by doing these policies, we have now kind of validated them, I hope I’m wrong. It’s kind of a sneaky way to be validated.”

Washington County Attorney Roger Wickes explained to Haff and the supervisors that the policies presented to the supervisors addressed the responsibilities of the six people that comprise the team, the county attorney, the county administrator, the safety officer and the public safety department.

“Those are the people that collectively make the decisions based on whatever their respective responsibilities are,” Wickes said. “It comes together because those are the people who have the day-to-day responsibilities of making sure things happen. It was easier to give it a name. I’m not looking for an extra line in my paycheck or anything.”

Haff responded:

“I am weary of a team being created by the team named by the team and then we pass policies of that team and none of us really even knew such a team existed or gave authority to create a team. But I think the chairman does have authority to do ad hoc committees without the approval of a subcommittee, is that true?”

“This is not an ad hoc committee, this is a bunch of employees,” Wickes said.

Hebron supervisor Brian Campbell attempted to explain the reasoning for the formation of the team to generate preparation for any disastrous situation and maintain the operation of the county government.

“The problem is, when something goes wrong, everybody is blaming everybody and this is a solution ahead of that, that everybody knows what their role is and what they are responsible for so when there is any kind of crisis situation, everybody is covering the boxes that they had checked in their part so they know where they need to get shored up or when they need a new member,” Campbell said. “I think this is the underlying thing, this is a very proactive way to make sure we don’t have a catastrophe.”

Haff said he was in favor of the establishment of the team and the intent but would have liked to have seen policy established to implement the team and define its responsibilities.

“It’s recognized as a group of people that are inherently responsible for a function of this organization, which is access, control and security,” said Putnam supervisor Darrell T. Wilson.

Haff argued that the resolution did not authorize the creation of the Facility Safety Response Team.

Granville supervisor Matt Hicks said he understood Haff’s concerns and spoke to Wickes.

“He’s (Haff) got a point, who defines those people, I don’t know who the six are. He says ‘I should know who the six are.’ I see why you should be and Melissa (Fitch, county administrator) should be,” Hicks said.

“The idea behind it is so that now my predecessor can’t say ‘I’m not interested in doing that, I want to do something else.’ No, that’s one of your responsibilities as delegated by this policy,” Wickes said.

With board chair Sam Hall of Fort Ann attending remotely, Easton supervisor Dan Shaw asked board vice chair and Argyle supervisor Bob Henke if the board could pass a resolution “saying what the team is and post it on the wall somewhere, then it’s official.”

“The six that you have, I think they’re the right six because they’re department heads that are involved in this all the time,” Shaw said.

Additionally, Shaw asked if the resolution included supervisors to wear badges of identification when inside the county building.

“Supervisors are not employees, they are employers. So if you have one that you like, nobody’s going to stop you,” Wickes responded.