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Shenandoah officials to discuss rescue squad's proposal

Disbanded volunteer organization is looking to resume providing of county EMS service

By Elizabeth Wilkerson - ewilkerson@nvdaily.com

STRASBURG -- County officials and Strasburg Volunteer Rescue Squad leaders will meet this afternoon to discuss the squad's recent proposal for providing EMS coverage.

Last week, squad leaders said a proposal from the organization, which wants to resume its service, was making its way from the agency's attorneys to county officials.

"I have a copy of their duty roster," which has "times blocked off where they might be able to provide coverage on weekends," Shenandoah County Administrator Vince Poling said.

On Friday, squad Chief John Nixon said he'd rather not get into the specifics of the proposal until "we actually sit down and talk to" the county. He said he hoped the proposal would be a starting point for today's discussion.

The squad's schedule runs through Sept. 27, Poling said, and it does "not provide total weekend coverage."

"When I say total, I'm talking about 24-hour coverage on weekends," he said. "I think it's fair to say that what [the county] had asked for was a commitment to coverage on a 24-hour basis during weekends or some other time of the week so we could release our crew for one of the shifts.

"I guess the missing piece to what's been presented is the sustainability of what they've presented. What happens after September?"

On April 14, the Board of Supervisors voted to shut down the squad for consistently failing to provide 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 the assets.

In May, 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.

Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue Chief Gary Yew said the schedule "looks like they've got most all of the Saturdays covered, but there appears to be some holes on Sundays." The schedule also includes some coverage during the week, he said.

"I guess what we need is a staffing schedule that would also allow us the flexibility to change our career staffing schedule, and at this point, I'm not sure that we have enough information to do that," he said.

County fire and rescue officials are looking forward to working with recently elected Squad President Doug Mowery Jr. and "working some of these details out," Yew said. Also, he said, "this is something the county attorney is working on with Strasburg rescue's attorney, so we're waiting for the results of that discussion."

Poling said the proposed schedule would be discussed at the next meeting of the supervisors public safety and code administration committee, which will take place today at 4 p.m. The squad's leaders have been invited to attend that meeting, he said.

Nixon said he thought the Board of Supervisors wanted to work with the squad. He said he hoped to hear today "that we're able to start serving the community and start serving calls."

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