Career crews debated

The chairman of the Patrick County Board of Supervisors said a career service for inter-agency transport is needed, but the current career crews serving the county are unnecessary and expensive.

Lock Boyce, of the Mayo River District, made the comments during discussion of a motion to ratify a telephone poll that led to the purchase of a new ambulance. He and Jane Scales Fulk, of the Dan River District, both opposed the measure. (See related story)

Supervisors Rickie Fulcher, vice chairman and of the Peters Creek District; Crystal Harris, of the Smith River District and Karl Weiss, of the Blue Ridge District, support the career service and the ambulance purchase.

However, Boyce said the current paid service “is not worth it. It’s too expensive.”

He said the career service has cost the county $300,000 “in just a couple of months. It was supposed to pay for itself” by soft billing (a system of billing users, but not making them pay if they are unable to do so).

Patrick County Emergency Services Coordinator Steve Allen has said from the inception that the service would not generate enough funds to pay for itself. He has said soft billing revenues would help offset expenses.

Boyce said the career service “races to get soft billing (monies) away from the volunteers.”

The system is set up so that whichever agency runs the call can bill for the service, officials have said.

Boyce said he does not like the way volunteers are treated, and explained that in the past, some fire and rescue volunteers have disagreed with some of Allen’s recommendations, including random drug testing of volunteers, Boyce said.

Volunteers “told him they’d shut the doors first,” before agreeing to random drug tests, Boyce said.

He alleged that some volunteers were prevented from taking additional training as a result of the disagreement. He said volunteer rescue squads were undermined and now are divided.

Fire departments are next, Boyce said.

A group of members from the Patrick Springs Volunteer Fire Department attended a recent supervisors meeting. James Bryant addressed the supervisors on behalf of the group.

“We don’t have a problem with Steve Allen. We appreciate what he’s done,” Bryant said. “We appreciate what you all do to support Steve Allen, and we appreciate what he’s doing to get things going in a new direction.”

Boyce said the group attending the meeting did not represent the views of the entire department. “This is not all of the Patrick Springs Volunteer Fire Department,” he said.

Although she voted against the new ambulance for the career service, Fulk said that she thinks Allen is doing a good job.

In other matters at the meeting, supervisors:

  • Heard concerns from Roger Gammons, of the Red Bank Ruritan Club, and Warren Rodgers, secretary of the Patrick County Electoral Board. Gammons and Rodgers agreed to work together to address the issues.
  • Approved the estimated $1,700 needed for a new HVAC (heating and air conditioning) system that will be installed in the Community Center housed at the Stuart site of Patrick Henry Community College. Rose estimated the system currently in need of repair to be more than 20 years old.
  • Approved a measure to allow the audio recordings of supervisor meetings to be posted online at the county’s website.
  • Approved budget appropriations requested by the Patrick County Department of Social Services. Joan Rogers, director of the agency, requested more than $1.8 million for payroll, operating expenses and service delivery, and appropriately $82,816 to administer the expansion of the Medicaid program that was approved by legislators for fiscal 2018-19. Rogers estimated an additional 1,000 people will be eligible for Medicaid as a result of the expansion. The county will be required to pay a local share of $323,808 for the expansion in the next fiscal year, she said. Rogers also requested a $645,488 appropriation to cover administrative costs and expenses for at-risk youngsters and their families in fiscal 2018-19.
  • Following their closed session meeting, supervisors hired a new custodian; approved a $5,000 increase in the salary paid to the Stormwater Management and Erosion Control director due to a new certification; approved joining two federal lawsuits: Payments In Lieu of Taxes Act (PILT) and a suit regarding opiates. Fulk and Boyce did not support the latter.

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