By Mark Waite
Nye County Commissioners received an email from County Manager Pam Webster Wednesday morning informing them Emergency Services Director Brent Jones was no longer employed by the county.
Webster didn’t give an explanation. She wasn’t available for comment by presstime.
Webster will serve as EMS acting director until a replacement is found.
Jones is the first department head to get the ax since Webster took over as county manager March 20.
Commissioners Lorinda Wichman and Joni Eastley said they didn’t know of any other details outside of the brief email.
“Staff is not allowed to talk about personnel because of the collective bargaining unit,” Wichman said.
Jones saw his major project, the multipurpose training facility, become a reality when a motion by county Commissioner Gary Hollis to allocate $293,705 in April 2010 passed without any discussion. The facility, also known as Stetsonville, at 2871 E. Mesquite Ave., includes facilities where sheriff’s deputies, emergency responders and others can practice rappelling, run an all-terrain vehicle course, practice rescues on automobiles while SWAT teams can use a maze that simulates homes or hotel rooms.
But District Attorney Brian Kunzi was upset earlier this year that occupancy permits were never obtained for trailers used for classroom training. The project kept expanding under numerous piecemeal requests approved by commissioners.
That came a few years after the opening of the new EMS facility on Siri Lane.
The mutiny by Amargosa Valley volunteer firefighters, after a takeover by the county EMS department in 2010, was a major burr in Jones’ side during his tenure. A group of Amargosa Valley residents even demanded a grand jury investigation into the method used by the county to take over the fire department. Firefighters objected to requirements like physicals.
Former Amargosa Valley Fire Chief Lon Fuller cited overwhelming frustration by firefighters over what they perceived as an increasingly hostile work environment that led to six resignations and four terminations.
Four of the five Amargosa Valley town board members subsequently resigned over fears of liability in the community.
“Our fire department has been demolished and totally demoralized within the last six months with increasing rapidity since it was taken over in March by the county EMS department,” former town board chairman Jan Cameron said in a September 2010 resignation letter.
Nye County EMS Logistics and Abatement Officer Kevin Kleinworth countered the regulations on volunteer firefighters were essential after there were incidents of firefighters responding to calls intoxicated, stealing, or physically unfit to wear breathing apparatus.
“I’ve been outspoken against Brent Jones for what he’s doing. In my opinion he’s acting under the color of the law,” said John Bosta, one of the Amargosa Valley residents who requested the grand jury. “They were fraudulently collecting money for rural fire departments that were never created.”
The request for a grand jury however was denied at the district court and Supreme Court level.
After years of discussions, an animal advisory committee was never able to pass amendments to Title 6 of the Nye County Animal Control Ordinance that were adopted by the county commission. Tonopah residents last January complained about a lack of animal control in the north county to replace officers who left the department.
Animal control was always a tough job. In June 2009, Jones supervised county employees who transplanted birds and ducks from the Calvada ponds to the Bowman pond before they were renovated. The Calvada ponds were called, “a duck ghetto.”
While commissioners debated animal control personnel needs earlier this year, Jones provided a humorous account of the rigors of animal control, like putting on firefighter’s turnout gear to roust a pit bull from a bathroom and chasing potbellied pigs.
Eastley questioned a vehicle swap Jones proposed at a March county commission meeting. Jones admitted after some questioning he would be driving a new 2012 Dodge Ram 3500 four-by-four, crew cab pickup truck the county would receive after trading in a 1994 Freightliner Type I structure fire engine and paying the $34,827 difference.
Kunzi said Nye County only received one bid for the fire truck from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., after a county employee drove the tanker truck there.
Jones was also the representative of the Nye County Management Employees Association, the bargaining unit that agreed to a freeze on STEP increases, longevity pay and a furlough day once each month.