By Nancy Lindsey\r\nThe Patrick County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Monday night to put a prepared meals tax referendum on the November ballot\u2014the sixth attempt in the past decade.\r\nVoting in favor of the motion were Mayo River District Supervisor Lock Boyce, Smith River District Supervisor Crystal Harris, Blue Ridge District Karl Weiss, and Peters Creek District Supervisor Rickie Fulcher.\r\nDan River District Supervisor Roger Hayden, board chairman, voted no.\r\nEven though most of the discussion in the nearly five-hour meeting dealt with the proposal to implement a paid emergency medical services (EMS) system in the county, the board took only one action on EMS: agreeing to ask the rescue squads to make their own recommendations for solving the problems of volunteer shortages and unanswered emergency calls and present them at the July 11 meeting.\r\nDiscussion in the past has centered on using the meals tax, if successful, to help pay for the paid EMS system. However, even with the majority of the supervisors in favor of that outcome, the board did not succeed in linking the two aspects together in Monday\u2019s board meeting.\r\nThe EMS discussion began with a public input session in which citizens favored the paid system.\r\nRalph Barnard, a member of the Vesta Rescue Squad, said the squad has been having a problem answering calls because of too few volunteers.\r\n\u201cI can\u2019t run up and down steps with a stretcher like I used to,\u201d Barnard said. \u201cI think the county ought to take better care of me\u2026We\u2019ve got a great rescue squad but we need more people to man it.\u201d\r\nJames Henningsen, also of the Blue Ridge District, said times have changed since people of his generation could willingly join rescue squads because they worked for companies that gave them time off to answer calls.\r\nNow there are only a few companies providing employment on the mountain and most potential volunteers go down the mountain for jobs in Martinsville or other localities, Henningsen said. They don\u2019t have the opportunity to leave work to serve as volunteers, he said.\r\nHenningsen said he is planning to join the Meadows of Dan Volunteer Fire Department and offer his volunteer services. He said he thought it was time the county changed the EMS system and helped take care of older people. \u201cI don\u2019t think that\u2019s too much to ask,\u201d he said.\r\nCrystal Webb, a member of the Vesta Rescue Squad, said every rescue squad in Patrick County needs help.\r\n\u201cPeople need to know that when they call 911 someone will come,\u201d Webb said. \u201cA dispatcher should not have to call a countywide tone 10 times. As a volunteer I signed up to be a volunteer; I did not sign up to be paid. I hope you can find a way to make something happen.\u201d\r\nRonald Terry, a member of the Meadows of Dan Volunteer Fire Department, said he knew there has been talk of paying volunteers to make calls, but \u201cit won\u2019t work\u2014not if there is no one there to answer calls. That\u2019s not going to solve the problem.\u201d\r\nTerry said he had been a volunteer for 16 years, a member of the Meadows of Dan Ruritan Club for 25 years, and served with the school booster club and PTO through the years.\r\nThe Meadows of Dan and Vesta squads believe a paid EMS system is needed, Terry said, and \u201cwe\u2019ve got to do something quickly.\u201d\r\nHe said he thought the meals tax and soft billing (when three bills are sent to the patient but the fee is not collected if the patient is unable to pay) would cover the cost of the program.\r\nTerry said he thought county residents would vote for the meals tax if they understood that it would be used for EMS. He advised the supervisors to \u201cget out into the community and explain it, and it will pass.\u201d\r\nTerry said the Vesta Rescue Squad had offered to donate a surplus ambulance to the paid service.\r\nHarris, who left her place on the board podium and sat in the witness stand, said she was speaking not as a supervisor but as captain of the Smith River Rescue Squad and as a citizen.\r\nOn a recent call she and three other members of the rescue squad (all in their 70s) responded to a newborn baby who was having trouble breathing, Harris said. (The mother and baby are doing fine.)\r\nHarris said she has been running calls for 30 years and paid for her training herself. In emergency situations, she said, \u201cit really gets scary when I\u2019m the only one who answers.\u201d\r\n\u201cI urge you to listen to what people are saying,\u201d Harris said. \u201cPlease listen to what people need.\u201d\r\n\u201cSomething\u2019s got to be done,\u201d Fulcher said. \u201cWe can\u2019t put it off. The population is aging, and we can\u2019t keep delaying.\u201d\r\nWeiss said he had spent the last nine years trying to get some form of paid service in the county. The QRV (quick response vehicle, with trained EMS personnel) had just gotten started when he got on the board, but it \u201cgot shut down.\u201d\r\n\u201cI hear you, I know it\u2019s needed, and I know we can pay for it,\u201d Weiss said. \u201cWhat happens when you guys are gone?\u201d he asked the aging squad members. \u201cYou\u2019re going to end up without a rescue squad.\u201d\r\nWeiss said the 911 Committee voted unanimously to support a paid EMS system, and that should be all the evidence the board needs. \u201cWe shouldn\u2019t go any further,\u201d he said.\r\nWeiss said he had spoken to the emergency management coordinator in Floyd County, who said that simply paying volunteers for calls would not work. \u201cIf you want to get paid, join our paid service,\u201d Weiss said.\r\nBoyce said Floyd\u2019s EMS situation is \u201can unmitigated disaster\u201d and has to depend on help from rescue squads in neighboring counties.\r\nA paid service backing up Vesta would just be \u201ctwo guys sitting there watching television and eating pizza,\u201d Boyce said, because Vesta only averages three calls a week. Most of the squads have similarly scarce calls, he said, noting that he would prefer paying the volunteers per call, based on whether they are ALS (advanced life-saving) providers, BLS (basic life-saving) or drivers.\r\nBoyce pointed out that J.E.B. Stuart Rescue Squad, where he serves on the board of directors, has about 25 calls a week.\r\nThe majority of calls are not life-threatening, such as heart attacks, Boyce said, and Vesta Rescue Squad might have to hire people to cover those calls.\r\nThe problem is not just Vesta, Terry said, it\u2019s countywide.\r\nAs Terry and Boyce argued, Hayden banged his gavel and threatened to \u201cclear the room\u201d if the Terry interrupted Boyce again.\r\n\u201cNot without a vote,\u201d Weiss said.\r\nBoyce said the squads should make the decisions about hiring people or paying volunteers. \u201cGive it to the squads,\u201d he said. \u201cI don\u2019t want to give it to Steve (referring to Steve Allen, county emergency management coordinator).\u201d\r\n\u201cMr. Allen would replace the volunteer system in the county with a paid system,\u201d Boyce said.\r\n\u201cNobody is saying they want to replace the volunteers,\u201d Terry said. \u201cYou don\u2019t have any idea what we\u2019ve tried to do to get volunteers.\u201d\r\nHayden said there are already \u201ctwo QRVs in Stuart,\u201d referring to the responses of Allen and his assistant, Lemont Bryant,( who often fill in when squads don\u2019t answer calls).\r\nHayden said he would like to get more input from the rescue squads not represented at the meeting Monday.\r\nJeanette Filipi, administrator of Pioneer Community Hospital of Patrick County, said the local hospital was not really affected by the Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization filed by its parent company, but had to make the filing also.\r\n\u201cWe are a cash flow positive hospital, and for a critical access facility that\u2019s good,\u201d Filipi said. \u201cWe\u2019re very viable. Chapter 11 could end up doing positive things for us.\u201d\r\nPioneer Community Hospital of Stokes County in Danbury, N.C., is \u201chaving a much harder time,\u201d with beds closing and the county considering taking over, she said.\r\nFilipi urged county residents to continue to use the local hospital and support its programs, which include new services and specialists.\r\n\u201cI have my ear to the ground,\u201d Harris said. \u201cI know you care about what happens to our hospital.\u201d\r\nIn response to a question from Boyce, Filipi said the recent hospital renovation cost \u201cjust under $5 million.\u201d\r\n\u201cWe\u2019ve got a great hospital,\u201d Boyce said, \u201cfrom the standpoint of staffing and patient care.\u201d\r\nThe supervisors, as usual, jumped from topic to topic, but returned to the vote on the meals tax after a recess.\r\nWeiss said the referendum should be done by district, not countywide, because it passed last year in two districts: his own, Blue Ridge, and Peters Creek. If it passes again in his district, Weiss said, the resulting funds should come to his district.\r\nBoyce said about 90% of the meals tax revenue in the county would come from Primland Resort, which is in the Blue Ridge District.\r\n\u201cIf a district doesn\u2019t vote it in, it shouldn\u2019t get it,\u201d Weiss said.\r\nCounty Attorney Alan Black said he had not contacted the Attorney General\u2019s Office, but \u201ctalked to some people\u201d about the legality of voting by district and was told it would be an administrative disaster.\r\n\r\nThe refere\r\n\r\n[caption id="attachment_2400" align="alignnone" width="219"]<a href="http:\/\/www.mountainmedianews.com\/enterprise\/wp-content\/uploads\/2016\/05\/supervisors-meeting.jpg" rel="attachment wp-att-2400"><img class="size-medium wp-image-2400" src="http:\/\/www.mountainmedianews.com\/enterprise\/wp-content\/uploads\/2016\/05\/supervisors-meeting-219x300.jpg" alt="Ralph Barnard was among the speakers on the topic of a paid EMS system at the board meeting Monday night." width="219" height="300" \/><\/a> Ralph Barnard was among the speakers on the topic of a paid EMS system at the board meeting Monday night.[\/caption]\r\n\r\nndum could not have the language designating it by district, Black said, and this board could not bind a future board to spending the revenues in a certain way.\r\nBoyce, who supports the meals tax but not a paid EMS system, said the majority of the rest of the county (besides the Blue Ridge, Peters Creek and possibly Mayo River districts) already pay meals taxes if they eat in restaurants in the town of Stuart or adjoining localities. The town makes about $250,000 a year from the restaurant meals tax, Boyce said.\r\nCounty Administrator Tom Rose said one of the pros of the tax, if passed, would be bringing in the equivalent of two cents on the real estate tax levy. A con would be \u201can administrative burden\u201d to the treasurer\u2019s office, he said.\r\nThe meals tax would \u201cgive us something to use as a tool,\u201d Boyce said. \u201cWe could explain to people that we can\u2019t put it in writing that it goes to EMS and can\u2019t pass a law telling future boards how to spend money.\u201d\r\n\u201cIf ya\u2019ll pass the meals tax I\u2019ll go along with the EMS,\u201d Hayden said.\r\nBoyce made the first motion that the tax be put on the ballot. Weiss interjected that it be voted on by district.\r\nFulcher said he understood Weiss\u2019s intent but that he felt the board has a moral obligation to include allocations to help the rescue squads in districts where the referendum might not pass.\r\n\u201cif all board members support it, pass it countywide,\u201d Terry said.\r\nThe district amendment failed with no votes from Fulcher, Boyce and Hayden. The motion to place the question on the ballot, countywide, passed 4 to 1.\r\nFulcher said he was in support of some kind of paid EMS service. He suggested forming a committee composed of one EMS representative from each rescue squad, Steve Allen, an administrative person, and a board member, with the committee bringing back recommendations in July.\r\n\u201cI beg you to give these guys some time to think of solutions rather than setting up a countywide solution,\u201d Boyce said.\r\nHayden reminded the board that he set up a task force about a year ago with representatives of each rescue squad, and the chairman presented a plan to give stipends to volunteers, but that was never activated.\r\nHarris asked Crystal Webb, who was a member of that task force, why she resigned.\r\n\u201cI resigned because I felt the president of the task force had his own personal agenda,\u201d Webb said. \u201cI was not going to be part of what was coming to the board of supervisors when he had an agenda against certain people.\u201d\r\n\u201cThe real issue is not what each squad needs, it\u2019s what the citizens need\u2014the people of the county as a whole,\u201d Terry said.\r\nWeiss asked if the board could lower the tax rate, suggesting that he might push that action if the paid EMS fails.\r\nBlack said the board had already had a public hearing and voted on the tax rate. (In addition, the real estate tax statements have already been mailed, and probably many already paid.)\r\nThe motion failed, with Weiss and Harris voting for it and the rest of the board against it.\r\n\u201cI feel like we drove out to the middle of a cornfield, got stuck in the mud, and are still spinning our wheels,\u201d Fulcher said.