No joy splitting $270,000 extra for fire & rescue

Over the objections of District Two rep John Roark, the Nottoway Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Thursday to evenly distribute $270,000 in additional County money between the emergency squad and three fire departments -- or $67,500 each.

Roark said the $270,000 “needs to go where it’s most needed, and that would be to Crewe Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services” (Nottoway Emergency Squad, Burkeville Fire & Rescue).

Roark said EMS calls are averaging about 190 per month.

Would Have Been Tax Cut

The $270,000 comes from the Board’s decision earlier this year to ditch a proposed 3¢ tax reduction as part of a pandemic relief package.

Instead, Supervisors kept the real estate tax rate at 48¢ per $100 and agreed to give what the tax reduction would have cost -- $270,000 -- to fire and EMS.

More Pressing Needs

“We’re not short on fire trucks, guys,” Roark declared. “We’ve got fire trucks in all three towns, plus Fort Pickett and Lunenburg. If we need fire trucks, there are fire trucks everywhere. What we DON’T have is complete and total 24/7 coverage to answer these emergency medical calls.”

Roark said splitting the money four ways “just keeps the same problems in the same place...I’m gonna make some firefighters upset with me, but Blackstone is NOT HURTING. They’ve got a $700,000 fire truck coming.”

Roark also said that if any one agency were to shutdown, “the County will have to pull a million dollars out of its pocket.” He suggested an audit of each agency to determine the greatest need.

Association Stalemate

The task of how best to distribute the funds fell on the Board after the Nottoway Emergency Services Association failed to reach a consensus UE Original in September.

Supervisors Steve Bowen and Sherman Vaughn serve on PM the County’s Emergency Services PM Committee, which studied the issue. Bowen acknowledged that he and Vaughn , Work debated, but in the end, agreed to the even split because a fire 44 and rescue study for Nottoway is forthcoming next year from the state. “We know there’s gonna be some changes, that the old way’s not gonna stay. It’s a tough situation with funding and volunteers.”

Blackstone/Crewe Issue

Vaughn told Supervisor Roark that Blackstone serves a larger catchment area, “as much as Crewe and Burkeville,” but Roark disagreed saying, “Crewe actually covers more area.”

Vaughn replied, “I don’t like to say stuff like this. This is not part of me. But if you look at the towns that have financed their fire departments and rescue, it hasn’t been equal because some towns have not done what they should’ve done, when they should’ve done it. I’m gonna leave it at that.”

Roark said the issue at hand involves County money. “I don’t care where they live, they’re all county citizens.”

Enough, Gentlemen

Board Chair Helen Simmons broke-up the debate. “All right, y’all. Okay...”

Bowen called for the question. “The Association could not make a decision. So we will make a decision tonight and it’s gonna be done, and someone’s gonna get their money. Okay?”

The motion carried, 4-1, by roll call vote.

Vaughn emphasized “This is a one-time appropriation. This is not for every year. This is ONE-TIME.”

Near Crisis Continues

Earlier in the evening, Burkeville Fire & Rescue Chief, John Schutt, addressed the Board as a citizen and taxpayer.

Schutt said that only 30% of the County’s fire & rescue funding goes to ambulance services, while ambulance calls exceed fire calls by a 3-to-1 margin. He said that during the past 12 months, Burkeville rescue has responded 138 times “across the county to an area where no ambulance or staff was available.”

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