LAUREL — Laurel Mayor Tom Nelson said he's hiring five full-time emergency medical technicians Tuesday, a day after the city's volunteer EMS director announced his resignation and criticized the mayor in a social media post on the Laurel EMS Facebook page.
“We’ve been planning on hiring five emergency services personnel," said Nelson. "I put that on hold yesterday because I wanted to get some more answers to questions that I had that I hadn’t gotten answered yet in regards to some of the plans for that."
According to the Facebook post, Laurel EMS director Riley Hutchens appeared to be under the impression the mayor had decided not to hire the workers.
"I believe the mayor has taken the advice of external sources that have promoted improper governance of this city. This decision threatens the health and safety of all citizens," Hutchens wrote in the post.
Further down the post, Hutchens announced his resignation.
"I can no longer serve as EMS Director or a care provider under this administration," Hutchens wrote.
Hutchens updated the post around Noon Tuesday.
"Mayor Tom Nelson has agreed to proceed with the hiring of five emergency medical technicians, which are expected to begin work the first week of January 2020," Hutchens update read in part.
Q2 has reached out to Hutchens for comment but has not heard back Tuesday.
Nelson said Laurel does not have a social media policy governing what content its departments can post.
"That’s not an official stance of the city anyway. It wouldn’t be a place to get any news," Nelson said referring to the Laurel EMS Facebook Page.
The five new EMTs will supplement the current EMS staff, which is all volunteer. Nelson said a lot of the volunteer staff live far from Laurel, meaning volunteers have a longer travel time to the station in the night time and early morning hours.
"Those times when you are lighter staffed, or have less volunteers that are able to come in, that’s the point in the day where you get calls. That can lead to calls that aren’t responded to,” Nelson said.
Nelson referred a question about the cost of the new hires to Hutchens.
Laurel's growth, and in turn, higher call volumes prompted the decision to hire more EMTs, Nelson said.
He said the city will hire the five EMTs from American Medical Response (AMR) Inc., the same company that provides ambulance service for Billings.
“AMR would be entering into a contract with them as their home entity. This is actually hiring individuals who are qualified to provide basic life support functions as AMR employees of the city of laurel," Nelson said.
The mayor thinks this hiring will put the city in good shape for the future.
“We are challenged. [The hiring] will close the gap on the challenge that we’ve been facing. I think that will keep us in good shape for a long time to come. It’s a good plan. It’s well laid out," he said.