The Grant County Emergency Operations Center is planning to ask for an additional $25,000 in funding for personal protective equipment at the next county court session as the county looks to ease into the first phase of its reopening plan, according to the county’s interim Emergency Management Coordinator Dave Dobler in the location’s first onsite media tour Friday at the Grant County Regional Airport terminal.

County Judge Scott Myers said Tuesday this week’s regular county court meeting was canceled, but a special session may be held later in the week. He said the county recently received a shipment of personal protective equipment. Dobler could not be reached Tuesday by press time to confirm whether he still intended to request additional funding for PPE.

As the county prepares to ease back into a recognizable version of normalcy with its plan to reopen under review with the Oregon Health Authority, Dobler said Friday the county needs to stay vigilant as the community moves forward to prevent a surge in positive cases and address the economic and mental health costs related to COVID-19.

“This was a warmup and a shot across the bow,” Dobler said.

The EOC was activated in early March in response to the new coronavirus and has been at the Grant County Regional Airport terminal since mid-April.

Dobler, a sheriff’s office deputy, stepped into the lead role in early March after an emergency county court session saw the departure of his predecessor Ted Williams, who cited a long-standing feud with Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer.

Dobler said the EOC operates as a hub of information, coordination and planning for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dobler said he is requesting approval to hire a grant writer to apply for Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Public Assistance Grant made available under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. The FEMA Public Assistance Grant, available to state and local agencies, offers up to 75% in reimbursement for costs associated with responding to the COVID-19 pandemic including overtime labor expenses, EOC operating costs, PPE and search and rescue.

The county court approved $125,000 in funding to hire staff, purchase supplies and COVID-19 test kits when the center was established in March. Myers said the EOC should first look to bring on county employees who could not work from home to see if they were a good fit. Myers said approval was needed from the court for any purchase over $200, and he instructed Dobler to avoid overtime hours as well to avoid burnout of both him and his staff.

Dobler, who initially requested $250,120, was instructed by the court to go over the budget and reassess whether additional funding was needed after 45 days.

Meanwhile, the EOC has built an infrastructure at the airport that includes a new website, high-frequency radios and a high-powered antenna to communicate with neighboring counties during emergencies.

Dobler said, as a taxpayer, he understands that people in the community want to know where and how their money is being spent. He said now, with the county hoping to move into Phase 1 of reopening and with the EOCs infrastructure in place, he and his staff have the time to share information with the media and public.

Dobler said the EOC has spent roughly $117,000 of its budget. He said the caveat folks need to remember is that the EOC, though approved for funding March 31, was formed in early March.

“I start from the beginning of the month,” Dobler said.

The county’s PPE inventory as of May 5 shows 100 COVID-19 test kits, roughly 150 face shields, 250 N95 masks and upwards of 750 procedure masks across the county.

On Thursday, Rebekah Rand said Blue Mountain Hospital roughly has 1,000 N95 masks, 10,000 procedure masks, and over 100 face shields, in addition to an adequate supply of gloves, gowns, and hand sanitizer.

Rand said the hospital also has an "adequate supply" of gloves, gowns, and hand sanitizer.

"BMHD has adequate PPE on-site to meet Governor Brown's stipulations for resuming elective procedures, which is at least 14 days on hand."

Rand said, in keeping with the governor's guidelines to perform elective procedures, the hospital has open supply chains with established PPE vendors.

Rand said the EOC is not the primary for PPE for the hospital.

Reporter

Steven Mitchell is a reporter for the Blue Mountain Eagle. Contact him at steven@bmeagle.com or 541-575-0710.

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