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Fire division OK'd by board of supervisors

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

The Henry County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved changing the county code to create a fire division and to recognize the authority of the public safety director over the new division.

“I think we need to note there is no additional staff,” Horsepasture District Supervisor Debra Buchanan said.

In December, representatives of the Virginia Fire Services Board (VFSB) presented the board of supervisors with the results of the fire and EMS study for Henry County. One of the VFSB’s recommendations was employing a chief of fire-rescue to supervise and coordinate fire and rescue.

Creation of a fire division and recognition of the authority of the public safety director is in response to that recommendation.

Public Safety Director Rodney Howell made that recommendation and others at the supervisors’ planning retreat Feb. 5.

Deputy County Administrator Dale Wagoner said in an interview Tuesday night the next steps for the board of supervisors probably will be to form a fire-rescue oversight committee to develop a strategic plan, capital improvements plan and standard operating procedures across all departments.

Howell has said the proposed changes are not intended to take away the authority of the volunteer fire departments in their day-to-day operations, but to, among other things, help save money by spending more efficiently and to help obtain grants.

No one spoke at a public hearing Tuesday night on the proposal to create a fire division and to recognize the authority of the public safety director.

In other business, the supervisors heard a recommendation by the Henry County-Martinsville Rescue Squad Association for FY 2013-14 funding. M. Darren Lockridge, president of the association, requested capital funding of at least $95,000 be allocated to Ridgeway District Volunteer Rescue Squad to help repair the station because of extensive mold contamination.

The damage will cost nearly $400,000 to repair and is not covered by insurance, Lockridge wrote in a Feb. 8 letter.

Lockridge said grants will be sought, a loan will be taken out and fund-raising will be done to help pay for the project.

He noted in his letter that the recent fire and EMS study recommended that capital funding be awarded on a needs basis rather than a rotational basis.

If the board of supervisors does not approve funding for the crisis situation at the Ridgeway building, the association asks that the funds be awarded to Horsepasture Rescue Squad to replace an ambulance that is 10 years old and has begun to be a burden on the squad’s budget to repair.

The county allocation has been $95,000 annually since FY 2005-06. In FY 2012-13, the county provided $23,500 to match a grant for a new ambulance, according to a board document.

The rescue squad association also is requesting $37,000 to replace computers in ambulances; $4,000 for Advanced Life Support (ALS) volunteers to attend an annual symposium in Norfolk; and $7,500 to each of the county’s squads to replace radios.

The squad requests the Four-For-Life allocation that is received from the state continue to be distributed in six equal portions to include each of the five volunteer rescue squads and the Henry County Department of Public Safety. Wagoner said that typically is a total of about $20,000, but it can vary from year to year.

The supervisors also heard a recommendation by the Martinsville-Henry County Firefighters Association for fiscal year 2013-14 funding. Jerry Adams, president of the association, asked that the annual allocation of $175,000 in recent years for capital improvements be granted to the Patrick Henry Volunteer Fire Department to go toward a custom top mount pumper/tanker. This will replace a 1986 model pumper, according to Adams’ Feb. 7 letter to the supervisors.

“Like everything else, fire apparatus continues to increase in price. On the average, new apparatus is up 6 to 7 percent annually, and without the capital improvement program to assist in the purchase of new apparatus, the fire departments in the county would not be able to purchase new updated equipment to keep the level of service to the county,” he added.

Wagoner said each of the eight fire departments gets about $35,000 annually in operational expense money.

In other business, the supervisors:

• Approved the abandonment of a section of a 40-foot right-of-way off Orchard Drive in the Blackberry District. Brandon L. and Ashley T. Martin requested the abandonment. The county staff said there is no public necessity for the continued section of right-of-way, and the Virginia Department of Transportation has advised that it had no objection to the abandonment, a board document states.

No one spoke at a public hearing on the issue.

• Reappointed to the Planning Commission: Glenwood Vaughn, Iriswood District; Fred Spencer, Collinsville District; Hal West, Blackberry District. Their terms will expire March 31, 2017.

• Reappointed Wade Nelson to the Industrial Development Authority with a term expiring March 31, 2017.

• Reappointed J.R. Powell to the Dan River Alcohol Safety Action Program Board with a term expiring March 31, 2016.

• Appointed Barry Helmstutler to the Patrick Henry Community College Board seat vacated by Dean Randall with a term expiring June 30, 2014.

• Continued the meeting until at 4 p.m. March 12 for a special meeting at Patrick Henry Community College.

 

 
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