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Squad is striving to return to work

Members creating plan to overcome problems of past

By Elizabeth Wilkerson - ewilkerson@nvdaily.com

STRASBURG -- The Strasburg Volunteer Rescue Squad has made "extreme strides" and is working on a plan to overcome its past problems, Councilman Justin Ritenour said Thursday.

At the public safety committee's Thursday meeting, Vice Mayor Carlyle Swafford, who leads the panel, asked Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue Operations Chief Tim Williams about the squad's status.

Williams said the squad is a corporation, and has an emergency medical service license and an operational medical director, but a local government has not given the organization the authority to run calls.

On April 14, the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors voted to shut down the squad for consistently failing to produce enough volunteers to run emergency calls. On the same day, the county filed a complaint in Shenandoah County Circuit Court asking that the squad's assets be handed over to the county and a receiver be appointed for those assets.

Last month, the board approved a resolution that county attorneys "nonsuit -- but not dismiss" the complaint. The resolution said any organization, including the shuttered squad, could make proposals on providing "reliable" EMS service.

Ritenour, who is a member of the squad, said the organization "is certainly progressing in a good, positive direction."

"We're currently working diligently on a very good plan that will help us overcome some of the problems that we've had in the past," he said. A lot has happened since the squad's dissolution, he said, and "now we have a viable entity."

"I, personally, would say, at this point, the only thing keeping the trucks from pulling out the door is the county saying 'OK, we'll tone you,'" he said.

Swafford said the bottom line is "we want the rescue squad to be a success," and "whatever resources we could insert here we want to."

Planning Commissioner Carl Rinker, who is a charter member of the squad, asked what the town's "level of financial participation" would be if the organization were revived. Councilman Robert Baker said $25,000, half the town's typical donation to the squad, had been set aside for the organization in next year's budget.

When the donation was cut, officials didn't -- and still don't -- know whether the squad would be reconstituted, Baker said. Rinker said there was no doubt in his mind that the organization would bounce back.

"If they are, the town will support them 100 percent," Baker said.

Planning Commissioner Ronnie Cromer, who is also a firefighter, said everyone involved needs to work together, and "the governments have got to stand behind us."

"Why can't everybody come together here?" he asked. "Why can't we tell the lawyers to forget all this," come to a consensus, and "open the damn thing up and start running again?"

Swafford said he thought everyone had the same "vision."

"We're all trying to get to the same spot, and it's getting the rescue squad back and running again," he said.




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