Cayuga County Legislature

Fire and emergency personnel from throughout the county attend the Feb. 26 Cayuga County Legislature meeting.

As officials continue trying to rebuild the Cayuga County Emergency Management Office from the ground up, the county needs to keep the lines of communication open, and area fire chiefs need to understand that the process is going to take some time.

The office went down to one full-time staff member on Jan. 25 when part-time director W. Douglas Whittaker and temporary deputy director Maureen Conley both resigned, and has had zero full-timers since Feb. 15 when deputy director Niel Rivenburgh was placed on administrative leave.

Cayuga County Administrator J. Justin Woods has said that the county is keeping area fire chiefs and ambulance providers updated on the situation, but some fire chiefs refute that claim, saying that they have been left in the dark about coordination efforts at the county level.

Many fire chiefs asked the county Legislature at its Feb. 26 meeting to reinstate Conley, saying they presently have no confidence in the emergency management office and that Conley had been a knowledgeable and dedicated ally of emergency responders.

We understand that fire chiefs are frustrated by what they see as too little action in correcting long-term problems at the county level. It's clear that there has been poor communication — even turmoil — in the Emergency Management Office. But people also need to recognize that the county needs to move deliberately in its search for a new director to make sure the best person possible is offered the job.

At this point, the county needs to keep fire chiefs informed, and the recent addition of a dedicated email address for asking questions and sharing information might help in that regard. And the chiefs need to have patience while the search for a new manager takes place.

The county must not rush to fill this important position — but it must not dawdle either. And there must be an open dialogue between everyone involved in the meantime.

The Citizen editorial board includes interim publisher Thomas Salvo, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.

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