The Patrick Board of Supervisors heard from representatives from several local volunteer rescue squads at its Dec. 12 meeting.
Mike Fulk, of the Dan River District, said he opposes a potential merger of the Ararat Volunteer Rescue Squad and the Blue Ridge Volunteer Rescue Squad.
“We’ve been talking with members of the community, and for the most part, we have all negative comments for the response from our community members. Both rescue squads are defiantly against it,” he said.
Fulk is also against the possibility of closing the Vesta Volunteer Rescue Squad.
“The only outcome I see emerging closing rescue squads will be is less EMS service to the area,” he said.
The ideas were first broached by Dr. Jason Edsall, the county’s Operational Medical Director, in November.
The board did not discuss, or approve, the closure or merger of any volunteer rescue squads in the county.
In addition to having separate buildings, each squad has two trucks.
“If you merge those two squads and cut funding to either one of those entities, one or the other buildings will have to be not used because of the funding. That means one rescue squad will have to take on that entire area, which is the whole Southwestern side of the county,” Fulk said.
To his understanding, Fulk said the county will have a windfall of $300,000 because of the increase in personal property tax, and an expected $300,000 increase in income.
“We’ve understood there is roughly $600,000 in income, and we ask that some of that money be used to support these rescue squads to keep them open,” he said.
Fulk said one thing the county “dropped the ball on” was assisting with the payment for the inspection of the volunteer squads’ monitors.
“For the paid service, they (the county) signed a contract to do the monitors, but excluded all the volunteer agencies,” he said.
State regulations require monitors to be inspected once a year at a cost of $518 per monitor.
“The four squads, Ararat, Vesta, CCDF, and Blue Ridge, today spent over $3,500 getting those seven monitors inspected out of our pocket. I’d just like someone to try and stay on top of stuff like that,” he said.
Clyde DeLoach, chairman and of the Blue Ridge District, said he said at least four times at the November meeting that the board was not going to close any of the volunteer stations.
“As far as I’m concerned, as long as I’m here, I would never vote to close any. I think other people said the same thing.” It was simply “an idea thrown out. It’s not seriously been brought forward,” he said.
Billy Aldridge, of the Dan River District and captain of the Blue Ridge Volunteer Rescue Squad, said he compiled a list of 20 pages of people that wish to keep the rescue squads separate.
“We as a community over there feel like a lot of times we’re ignored, and that we kind of get bumped. I just wish you would spend more time, and I invite each and every one of you to visit us over there. I think you would understand it better if you come to the squads and actually visit the buildings and the people,” he said.
Aldridge also asked for a commitment from the board to help with the cost of the annual monitor inspections. The board did not give a verbal commitment.
Denise Stirewalt, of the Peters Creek District, asked if the same people were running at both buildings what would be the issue with just having the one location.
“I’m not saying combine or shut them down, all this is just as new to us as it is to you. I’m just trying to learn,” she said.
Aldridge asked why it is an issue to have separate squads.
“That’s what I’m asking you,” Stirewalt responded.
“You all are asking that question, so it would be you all’s issue. There has to be some reason” for asking, Aldridge said.
“You have the same people volunteer, you all are so appreciated, running out of Blue Ridge Rescue Squad that are running out of the Ararat Rescue Squad. So, we’re paying double the insurance for these people at this squad and this squad,” she said.
“So, it’s a money” issue, Aldridge asked.
Stirewalt said it isn’t just about the money.
“Why would it be an issue? Why do you all have an issue if we wanted to combine the two into one? Because it’s the same people running. Why do you want to run out of two buildings, and we have two different squads in the capital improvement thing and two different insurances,” Stirewalt asked, and added that she wants the county and volunteers to work together.
‘I’m just trying to understand, from your point of view, why would that be an issue. I don’t understand the importance of having the same people run at two different buildings six miles away,” she said.
Jane Fulk said the squads separated more than 26 years ago because “of some of the people that were in Ararat who couldn’t get along with anybody.”
Jane Fulk said one reason there are two squads is because it can help cut time off calls, especially if the trucks have to meet one another.
“The only reason we are even on the roster at Blue Ridge is because of insurance. Insurance told us if we ran for Blue Ridge, and we aren’t on their roster and something happened to us and we’re in their truck, we aren’t covered,” she said.
Jane Fulk added a lot of the members also have been on a squad’s roster in Carroll County.
When the board is considering the budget, Jane Fulk said she wanted its members to remember that Patrick County is not Henry County.
“Henry County has less square mileage than we do, but they have 51,000 potential taxpayers. This is Patrick County, with 17,800 potential taxpayers. So please look at cutting that budget, and I don’t mean in the rescue squad because we need all the money we can get,” she said.
Patrick County Emergency Management Service (EMS) Coordinator Scottie Cassell also spoke about a potential second truck that would be stationed in the Meadows of Dan/Vesta area.
“We are seeing about 130 calls at Station 8 every month now, which brings us up to a little over 1,500 calls for the year. That’s an increase from last year of almost 130-140 calls, and we’re not through December yet,” he said.
Finance Officer Lori Jones said through June 30, 2023, the cost for two fully staffed trucks with eight employees each including salary and benefits would be approximately $522,000.
Stirewalt made the motion to fund a second truck.
The motion died for lack of a second.