TAWAS CITY – The first official work week for Iosco County’s new Emergency Management Coordinator, Sean Bowers, kicked off this Monday, Jan. 10.

He will be taking over the position last held by Eric Abbott, who recently stepped down from the role that he began in June 2020.

There are a few differences between the agreement which applied to Abbott and that which was entered into by Bowers. These were explained by Michael Eller, Director of Emergency Services for Iosco County, during the Jan. 6 interview for this story.

Along with supervising the county’s emergency management coordinator, Eller is responsible for managing Iosco County 9-1-1 and supervising EMS operations.

He said that Abbott was a part-time county employee, who was compensated for 24 hours of work per week. For Bowers, though, his involvement in the job will be as that of a contract employee.

“He has his own business and we’re contracting him to perform the duties of emergency management,” Eller advised. “So he’s not a county employee.”

An independent contractor agreement between the county and West Branch-based Bowers Training Services, Inc. was approved at a recent meeting of the Iosco County Board of Commissioners (BoC).

When asked about any other applicants or candidates, “It’s an appointed position, so it was not posted,” Eller explained.

As part of the process in selecting a new coordinator, he was canvassing other counties which have similar populations to Iosco’s, and asking how they run their emergency management program – such as whether it’s part-time or full-time, and if they fall under the umbrella of 9-1-1, the sheriff’s department or the BoC.

Eller said that it was during this investigation when he was talking to Mike Bowers, who is the emergency manager for Arenac, Ogemaw and Oscoda counties.

While asking questions about how those programs are run, Eller said he obviously mentioned that Iosco County would be looking for a new emergency management coordinator, to which Mike Bowers noted that his son, Sean, was interested.

“I interviewed Sean and it was my opinion it was a perfect fit. One, he’s a great candidate,” Eller remarked. Two, having him be a contract employee was an exceptional fit for Iosco County at this time, he continued of Bowers, who resides in Ogemaw County.

As for some of his background and qualifications, Bowers has worked with his father, who runs a business where he subcontracts with other counties. As part of that business, Eller said, Bowers was working with him for emergency management responsibilities.

Along with having a bachelor’s degree in a related field, “Sean is also a full-time paramedic,” Eller added. Bowers is a paramedic and EMT training coordinator, as well.

In terms of the other differences between the prior arrangement and the new contractor agreement for emergency management services in Iosco County, Eller said it’s been his opinion that this is not a part-time job. “You cannot adequately perform the duties on 24 hours a week. You can barely maintain it, let alone progress it.”

Therefore, he said that the compensation was increased for Bowers in his contract agreement, and that he was asked to fulfill the duties of the position.

As outlined in the document, the contractor shall be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Bowers will be compensated $34,000 per year, and the two-year agreement is to remain in effect through Dec. 31, 2024.

It is also noted that the county reserves the option to extend the performance of the agreement for one additional year beyond the date of termination.

As previously reported, when Abbott was hired to the then part-time position, it was determined that he would work 24 hours a week for the county, at a pay rate of $19.11 per hour.

“Eric did an amazing job for the county. He worked hard to maintain where we were and also improve on a lot of aspects of the job,” Eller expressed. “And we’re sorry to see him go, but we understand that he has other responsibilities he needs to attend to.”

Sharing similar sentiments, during their Jan. 5 meeting, were members of the Iosco County BoC. After being presented with Abbott’s letter of resignation, they voted 4-0 to accept the document, with Commissioner Robert Huebel being absent from the meeting.

Vice Chairman Charles Finley said he was glad that Abbot came to work for the county, effectively organizing the emergency management department.

“Mr. Abbot has done an outstanding job and we appreciate his hours,” Finley said. “We appreciate his hours, time and dedication to that program. There was a lot of work involved.”

Commissioner Terry Dutcher agreed and said that Abbot worked hard to turn the department around from the condition it was in under the previous emergency management coordinator.

As has also been noted in this publication, Grant Township resident Abbott is the assistant chief of the East Tawas Fire Department, a Grant Township volunteer firefighter and a public protection field representative for Insurance Service Office, just to name a few.

When wondering how he had enough hours in the day, Eller said that this is what Abbott’s departure boiled down to. “He just didn’t. And Eric’s not the type of person that wants to do something halfway.”

If he’s going to be responsible for it, he wants to give it every effort he has, Eller went on. He said that both he and Abbott came to the conclusion that it was just too much. Abbott wanted to do better, and the county needs a little more.

And based on the job description for the emergency management coordinator, there are many requirements attached to the position.

The general summary reads that this person is responsible for the administration, planning, coordination and operation of all emergency management activities in Iosco County. They are to develop, review and implement plans and programs in preparation for disasters and related emergencies in the county. They also act as a liaison between the county and other political subdivisions, including the state of Michigan and federal government, to ensure effective emergency management operations.

There are a number of items listed as typical duties in the job description also, some of which are highlighted below.

• Develops and maintains current Iosco County Emergency Action Guidelines, as well as support plans for other counties.

• Conducts an annual disaster training and exercise program to ensure the efficient operation of the county’s emergency organization, as required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Michigan State Police.

• Develops and presents public information programs educating the general public about necessary actions which are required for the protection of persons and property in an emergency situation.

• Responsible for maintaining the operational readiness of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC). In the event of an emergency, activates the EOC, gathers and disseminates available data and information and initiates relief practices as established.

• Responsible for the development, review and implementation of the Iosco County Hazard Mitigation, Continuity of Operations and Emergency Action plans, as well as other plans.

• Participates in the Local Emergency Planning Committee, Iosco County Local Planning Team Committee, Regional Homeland Security Board, the Iosco County Tech Committees, Iosco County Fire Chiefs Association, county BoC and other committees, as directed.

• Prepares reports, statistical summaries, budgets and state and federal grant applications. Applies for state and federal disaster assistance and aid, as needed.

A synopsis of some of the notable items stated in the actual contractor agreement, is as follows:

• Unless otherwise agreed to in advance and in writing, Bowers shall be solely responsible for procuring, paying for and maintaining any computer, equipment, software, paper, tools or supplies necessary or appropriate for the performance of the services required. As an exception, he may use – when specifically authorized in writing by the Iosco County 9-1-1 director, controller or chief elected official – communications equipment owned by the county.

• Bowers will be solely responsible for any and all travel costs or expenses necessary to complete the services under the agreement.

• The county reserves no control over the contractor, nor any of his employees, subordinates and associates. Bowers is responsible only for accomplishing the results undertaken under the agreement.

• The county retains the right to review his performance of services from time to time, to assure conformity with the agreement.

• The contractor shall purchase and maintain such insurances as Workers’ Compensation, commercial general liability and motor vehicle liability, and will be responsible for paying any deductibles in its insurance coverages.

• He shall not receive any insurance, retirement benefits or fringe benefits from the county.

• Bowers will be an independent contractor and not an employee, partner or agent of the county. He shall not be entitled to, nor receive, any benefit normally provided to county employees, such as vacation payment, health care or sick pay or longevity.

• Bowers is to maintain all professional licenses and/or certifications necessary to provide the services under the agreement.

Eller said he believes it will be a smooth transition, that Bowers will come up to speed very quickly and that the county will be in good hands.

One of the biggest perks, Eller pointed out, is that Bowers’ father does the same work and is right next door. So, the new coordinator can bounce ideas off of both him and Eller, who adds, “We’re excited to have Sean on board.”

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