So winter arrived with a vengeance, albeit a bit earlier than normal, when storms swept through the area last week.

I have kind of a love/hate relationship with winter....more specifically the winter rains.

We need the rain, to be sure, and in my mind the kind of drenching we got last week was just perfect, providing a significant amount of precipitation without the heavy downpours that lead to more run-off than soak-in, so to speak.

And who doesn’t like the sound of a steady rain falling, at least from the comforts of home? Taking in the storm from the comfort of a covered patio, perhaps with a cup of hot coffee in hand, is enjoying Mother Nature.

One of the things we greatly enjoyed about our previous home was the tin patio cover....Kat and I could spend hours listening to the sound of falling rain there.

No, my problem isn’t with rain itself (although we don’t want too much, too fast).

My issue is when duty requires that I am out and about in the storms.

There was probably a time when it didn’t bother me to come back into the office looking like a drowned rat, but those years are somewhat in the past.

I finally broke down last year and bought a rain slicker. Technically, Kat bought it for me because she was tired of me coming home looking like the proverbial drowned rat.

I would prefer an umbrella to a slicker, truth be told, but since I don’t have the coordination required to manage an umbrella and camera gear at the same time that really isn’t an option.

But I still have to get the timing down.

Rain was falling when I headed out to Hunt School last Wednesday morning for some weather-related photos so I threw on the slicker. By the time I had walked halfway to campus, the rain was down to little more than a mist, so a jacket would have done just fine.

Of course, later in the day, when it was pouring, I got caught out with just my jacket.....and got drenched.

I still have to find my rain boots, too.

My promises to be fully prepared by the time rains hit this season proved to all be for naught, unfortunately, but I know that the boots are around here somewhere.

I hope that a good amount of rain, falling in beneficial increments, is in our future this winter. The start of the season has certainly been promising in that regard.

I look forward to enjoying as many of the storms from the comfort of home as possible....and will be as prepared as possible to brave the elements when the situation warrants.

Stay inside if you can.....if not, stay dry and be careful out there!

So.....the latest chapters surrounding the local ambulance service continue to unfold.

On the positive side, it appears that West Side Community Ambulance is making great strides in making sure that its units are fully staffed and in service.....more on that to come in following weeks.

Unfortunately, though, that it took an ultimatum from the provider’s oversight agency to motivate changes that clearly needed to be made.

But I was left scratching my head at the most recent meeting of the ambulance board, when directors were fully prepared to accept without discussion a letter from AMR, West Side’s contracted management firm, which essentially served formal notice that AMR is planning to terminate its management contract as of Jan. 8.

AMR had threatened to pull out of the contract unless West Side acquiesces to its demand that AMR essentially absorb West Side operations while leaving the district and board in place to keep the stream of user fees and tax dollars flowing.

That notice was formally served and West Side faces a decision that materially affects its future warrants some discussion, would you not think?

The lack of apparent urgency was stunning, to say the least.

Fortunately, at the urging of their legal counsel, ambulance board members did engage on at least a limited discussion of the topic.

But time is drawing short, and at this point there is even a question of whether West Side has a governing board in place to make decisions.

For my money, here’s what is going to happen.

I don’t think West Side throws in with AMR.

That may actually be West Side’s best shot at survival, but comes with drawbacks.

For one thing, that proposal seems to pose many potential issues involving the challenges inherent in merging a public entity (West Side) with a private firm (AMR). The two play by different rules, and in many respects come from different worlds.

For another, I don’t think the ambulance board - assuming we have an ambulance board again (another story you may have read elsewhere on these pages) - will want to take a step that essentially ends West Side Community Ambulance as we know it.

So I think the board will attempt to recreate an in-house management structure.

But I also understand the enormity of attempting to build that organizational structure from the ground up and am not confident an in-house management approach is viable given the challenges and complexities facing EMS providers in today’s world.

I do not see a good choice for West Side at this point, but nonetheless a choice must be made and some sense of urgency would certainly seem to be in order.

Dean Harris the Managing Editor of the West Side Index and Gustine Press-Standard. He can be reached at or by calling (209) 243-8104.