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Board delays approving holiday music festival Responds to concerns voiced by emergency responders

Debra Moore
Staff Writer

Concerns about adequate emergency medical response prompted the Board of Supervisors to delay authorizing a music festival in Belden during the Fourth of July weekend.

The supervisors were poised to approve permits for three concerts during their June 3 public meeting, but refrained from approving the Priceless concert scheduled for July 4 – 6 in Belden. They were scheduled to discuss the issue again during their June 10 meeting, after giving promoters time to address concerns raised by paramedic Steve Tolen and Ashley Blesse, a registered nurse and emergency services manager for Plumas District Hospital.

“Our resources are already stretched thin,” Blesse said of the holiday weekend.

PDH typically has three ambulances available, but one is undergoing repairs. Another ambulance is already committed to being stationed at High Sierra Music Festival on that weekend, which leaves just one to respond for the rest of the hospital’s coverage area.

Tolen told the supervisors that during a music festival held at Belden earlier this year, PDH personnel made five ambulance runs to the venue during a three-day festival, resulting in just two transports to the hospital.

That costs money because the hospital has to call in extra staff and pay overtime, and it takes an ambulance out of the area for an extended period.

The fact that only two transports resulted from five trips prompted a discussion about the expertise and the adequacy of the medical service provided by the festival.

Richie Folen, who is affiliated with Belden but isn’t one of the concert promoters, said that two paid and licensed EMTs are present during the event, and that one of the individuals is always in the medical tent.

The supervisors discussed the possibility of ambulance coverage from elsewhere in the county, as happens on a routine basis, but because it’s a busy holiday weekend, worried that it might not be realistic.

“We have people who live here, pay taxes, and that should be our priority,” Supervisor Sherrie Thrall said. “Not people who come to the festival and go no farther than Belden.”

But since tickets have been sold for the event, the supervisors decided to give concert promoters a week to work with PDH to see if a solution could be reached.

The supervisors questioned why they were being asked to approve a permit for a concert that was so imminent, but then learned that their own ordinance requires a public hearing no sooner than 60 days before an event, and no later than 30 days.

In addition to medical response issues, California Highway Patrol Commander Joe Edwards attended the meeting to discuss traffic concerns at the request of Supervisor Lori Simpson, who said she was shocked to learn that one of the participants was run over by a worker during the last event.

Edwards said High Sierra had its own traffic issues, but after working with promoters for a year, they had been addressed. He offered to do the same with Belden events.

“I think we could come up with a way to mitigate problems down there,” he said. “Let us use our expertise.”

While the supervisors delayed approving the Priceless event, with an expected attendance of 700, they issued the permit for the Sunset Campout scheduled to be held in Belden from July 25 to 27 with an expected turnout of 850.

The board also approved the permit for High Sierra, which draws approximately 10,000 to the fairgrounds during the Fourth of July weekend. This year’s event runs from July 3 through July 6.

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