By KAREN LA PIERRE

klapierre@dailynews.net

Ambulance crews will now have an easier time lifting patients into the ambulance now that the Ellis County Commission approved power-lifters for cots at its regular meeting Monday.

Swede Holmgren and Dean Haselhorst voted for the measure. Commissioner Barbara Wasinger was absent.

The cost is $186,654 and will come from the capital improvement fund from a five-year interest-free rate.

The move will add three ambulance cots, seven power devices and four ambulance upgrade kits.

"I'm bringing before you what I view as a safety concern," said Kerry McCue, Emergency Medical Services director.

The device is a hydraulic system that raises and lowers the patient, reducing personnel lifts and providing stabilization.

McCue noted the power-lift system would not eliminate all lifts. EMS personnel would still have to lift patients in some situations such as out of a ditch.

That's "terrible mechanics to lift," said McCue. Personnel are "susceptible to back injuries. We've experienced some."

He said there has been lost work time due to injuries.

McCue hoped the new system would cut the number of lifts in half.

County Administrator Greg Sund said there had been some requests to have Dec. 26 as a special holiday for county employees. The state of Kansas approved the days off for state employees.

The commissioners were in agreement that with the upcoming move, the time was needed to complete essential work.

In addition to closing county administrative offices to the public Dec. 31 to perform year-end accounting activities, Sund recommended offices be closed to the public Jan. 2 to 5 for relocating administrative offices to 718 Main. Most county business is difficult to perform with the computers disconnected, he said.

The commissioners approved the item.

In final business, the commissioners:

* Approved cereal malt beverage licenses for El Charro Convenience Store, Fort Hays Golf Shop and Rose Garden Steak Haus and two pending licenses.

* Approved budget reallocations.

* Considered a request by County Appraiser Lisa Ree for aerial photography. The project was tabled until January as Haselhorst said he would not approve the measure.

* Heard more jailers are needed with the disbursed jail operation from the construction.

* Heard Haselhorst mention Monday's meeting was the last at the courthouse for county commissioners. The next meeting will be at the new location, 718 Main.

* * *

Dick Klaus, Ellis County Rural Fire chief/director, announced his retirement after 30-plus years in service at the Ellis County Commission meeting Monday.

He has been fire chief since September 1992. Klaus will leave in June.

The county will begin advertising for a fire chief immediately so the new director will have interim training time.

Klaus indicated there might be some interest in-house.