The Decatur County Emergency Management Advisory Council (DCEMAC) doesn’t meet that often but when it does, something big is usually going on.

The DCEMAC usually handles matters during E-911 or Local emergency Planning Committee meetings but Wednesday decided to meet on its own for the first time in a year-and-a-half. The main topic on the agenda was the resignation of director Iris Wilhoit and the appointment of Pam Blasdel as the interim director.

Wilhoit said her primary job workload had increased as had her duties as EMA director, and keeping both was “unrealistic.”

“I have found this position to be a challenge and I am proud of our accomplishments, particularly the acquisition of a Hazmat vehicle, equipment for the decontamination team and for facilitating the acquisition of a new office and emergency operations center,” Wilhoit said in her resignation letter shared at the meeting. “I wish to thank the HAM radio operators, other emergency volunteers, local first responders and other members of the community for working with me. More importantly, I wish to thank Valeo for allowing me to pursue this position as a “volunteer” to the community.”

Wilhoit put volunteer in quotation marks because she has been lobbying for some time to have the county turn her part-time position, which pays $6,000 annually, into a better-paying full-time job.”

Greensburg Fire Chief Scott Chasteen was elected to serve as the DCEMAC chairman and Andy Witkemper as vice chair. Chasteen spoke on the change.

“This is a transition for us,” he said. “Iris did a good job. She assisted in bringing a lot of state and federal funding to the county and a lot of projects were completed under her.”

Blasdel, who was selected by a 4-3 vote with Greensburg Firefighter Steve Ramer also considered for the interim director’s job, is also the public health coordinator for the Decatur County Health Department. As such, she’s already working on full-scale plans in case of an epidemic or other outbreak. As EMA director she will be responsible for the entire state-mandated Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan for the county.

Blasdel may keep the temporary tag for the rest of the year until it is decided whether to make the EMA director a full-time paid position. Her selection is also contingent on approval from the Commissioners.

“We’ll take this opportunity to approach the County Council and Commissioners about seeing if they want to fund this position full-time,” Chasteen said. “This is a good time to do that. With the added responsibilities thrust on the EMA director, it’s hard to do on a part-time basis.”

With personnel matters behind them, the DCEMAC moved on to communications. They have approximately $197,000 from a grant to buy 800 megahertz (MHz) radios. The county has already installed an 800 MHz tower on County Road 60 Southwest.

“We already have some radios but we’ll upgrade the equipment we have now with the new 800 megahertz,” Chasteen said. “This is part of the Hoosier SAFE-T program and will allow for better inter-operability between departments statewide. It’s just another component of improving homeland security.”

The Indiana State Police already operates on the 800 MHz system.

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