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Plan calls for more fire, rescue workers

Proposal to hire 13 additional career employees would cost close to $700,000

By Sally Voth -- svoth@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- A proposal to hire 13 more fire and rescue staff would cost the county nearly $700,000 in fiscal 2013.

County Administrator Doug Walker has proposed a fiscal 2013 budget that is about $54 million, which is around $5.6 million above this year's spending plan. He has suggested an 8-cent real estate tax hike to come up with additional revenue.

Among the most expensive items proposed in the upcoming budget is adding 13 career staff to the Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue at a cost of $691,215.

That is nine fewer employees than Fire and Rescue Chief Gary Yew had requested. The call for 22 additional employees is because of requests for extra help from the departments in New Market, Conicville, Orkney Springs and Toms Brook, he said on Monday.

New Market, which currently has two career emergency medical service providers, is looking for 24-hour-a-day help in fire coverage, according to Yew. Orkney Springs and Conicville wanted additional help staffing ambulances, and Toms Brook asked for more help with a fire engine.

"[Thirteen staffers are] certainly not what we proposed, but we're certainly [prepared] to work with what the Board of Supervisors approve," Yew said. "Should we receive the 13, we're not sure yet how we will deploy those folks. We're still discussing that."

He said he thought there would be six career staff working each 24-hour shift at New Market -- two for an ambulance and four on a fire engine -- which would bring the number of career staffers there to 18.

"That would just be bare bones," Yew said. "That doesn't build in much relief."
He said he expects shortages will lead to more over-time pay.

The Department of Fire and Rescue has 32 full-time and six part-time employees, Yew said. He said the salary and benefits for the full-time workers are costing about $1.9 million in fiscal 2012.

Budget Manager Garland Miller said the department's original 2012 budget is about $2.3 million.

The fire and rescue budget is scheduled to be discussed at a budget work session at 7 p.m. Thursday. The Sheriff's Office budget is also expected to be discussed then.

While Sheriff Timothy C. Carter had originally asked for four more workers, just one position -- a school resource officer -- is in the proposed budget. That position is expected to cost $51,028.

Carter said Monday that a staffing study is proposed. While the department has been working on its own staffing analysis, it's thought it might be better to have an outside agency conduct it, he said.


Dear Shenandoah County Fire and Rescue-

I understand your need for more staffing, I understand that their is a growing demand on the system but COME ON! 13 PEOPLE FOR $700,000?! I have seen and heard all of the issues that are going on with volunteer/career staff in Shenandoah County and the first thing that needs to be done is fixing the issues in the SCFR management system of the current staffing. There are several ways that the current budget allotment for fire and rescue could allow for more staffing to be hired if necessary. The first I see is allowing Co 25 and Co 5 ambulances to take over the area that was originally covered by them in the Toms Brook/Maurertown areas. On the weekends when volunteers are there, these two companies could cover EMS calls and the proposed staffing needs for Co 9 for an engine could be eliminated; current SCFR members could staff the engine for that time period. Secondly, have statistics shown that New Market, Conicville and Orkney Springs have call volumes large enough to justify putting staffing in ALL these locations? Again, is the current staffing being utilized such that they can't be put in a centralized locations to assist in these areas?

Your request does not merit consideration when you look at needs of both the school system and the Sheriff's Office. These two agencies have been learning for many years how to work with "bare minimum" in order to allow Shenandoah County to allocate funds to other needs; it is now time for us to take care of our teachers (who have gone without pay increases for several years) and our law enforcement officers (who put their lives on the line everyday). I feel that SCFR management should dive deeper into its current resources and strive to work to mesh with the current volunteer system to serve the needs of the county. If, after careful consideration, this is not possible, then small steps need to be made to reach goals and not the giant leap Mr. Yew is proposing.

Disagree with first comment; if we want to talk about waste in budgets, let's look at the schools. It's important to educate our children; but another $1.7 million increase??? For what? more staff in the admin office that is already overstaffed while the special ed students at the Stonewall campus do without? I think there needs to be some strong scrutiny by the Board on all county budgets and where there may be some fat. It has become a different world; we are busier; peoples priorities have changed. God bless the volunteers we do have; unfortunately they are not enough for the growing population of this county. Response times need to be kept within reason to save lives and this is not happening in certain areas of the county with volunteers. So the Board has to decide - let citizens die for lack of response or take a long hard look at the budget and determine what things are NECESSARY. Enough said.

If I'm reading this correctly, the department currently has 38 employees and the chief requested to add 22 additional employees this year. Are you kidding me!?! I'm aware of the shortage of volunteers but to suggest that you need to increase the size of your department by 60% is just outrageous. How can you even begin to justify that when the poulation of the county has been basically stagnant for the past 5 years. This is Shenandoah county, not Farifax. The citizens do not want to pay for that level of service, nor do they expect it.


Let’s start from the top here,$700,000 ($53,846 each) to hire 13 additional Professional Firefighters is not that much money when you take into consideration paying for their required gear,salary, and benefits. If SCFR decided to use a true 30 week long recruit school to train their personnel the price per firemen could easily be doubled for the first year. Instead of going the more expensive route SCFR has decided to hire personnel that already have the qualified training.

The reason station 9 has a county staffed ambulance is to take care of all the calls in companies 5 and 25's area that the volunteers couldn’t handle. The ambulance that is stationed at company 9 is the ONLY guaranteed 24/7 ambulance on the whole north end of the county so why would you want to take the chance and let the volunteers staff for the weekend with no guarantee there will be coverage. And as far as New Market, Conicville,and Orkney Springs goes what do you mean by asking do the call volumes justify placing staffing in these areas? Last time I checked if I pay taxes and I live in one of these areas I deserve to get the same immediate care that someone that lives beside a staffed unit gets. I shouldn’t have to wait for New Market or Woodstock's staffed unit to come all the way to Conicville to pick me up on the nights or weekends!

Another question,what do you mean by saying this request has no merit? I agree that the SCSD and the School system need money as well they are working with staffing shortages and having to cut many important needs but to say that SCFR's request has no merit is an ignorant statement! Fire and Rescue both Career and Volunteer put their lives on the line everyday as well and are a needed just as much as any other division of public safety!

I am not against a volunteer system at all when the volunteer system works but when I call 911 I expect to get the best services available and I don’t want to have to wait around watching my house burn or a family member in pain and wonder how long it’s going to take for a unit to get there. If you staff units throughout the county I wouldn’t have to wonder this anymore I would know that immediate help was on the way!

You are right it IS NOT Fairfax County and you will not find that Fairfax County needs 3 courthouses and another new administration office. Maybe if we cut out the good old boy network of hiring into the government and giving the good old boy contractors more jobs building new courthouses, administration buildings and jails we could afford to have what Fairfax County does have and that is decent paid and staffed education, law enforcement and fire departments that are more important than the waste of so many administrative staff and new buildings. Gee, Fairfax County makes do with ONE building for both the court system and the administrative staff. This low population county of under 20,000 residents needs 3 courthouses, 2 jails and at least a dozen administrative offices and Fairfax County at well over 1,000,000 residents can make do with one building that was built over 30 years ago.

You are so correct and it is not the school administrative staff, but every administrative department in the county. If you are a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend you can get a job working for the county administration. If you need to file paperwork for probate the office has 3 employees, husband, now ex-wife and daughter. Cut the FAT and the good old boy system and the county could afford to staff the fire and rescue department.

Take $100,000 and invest it in recruitment and retention of Volunteers. Problem Solved.

We already have the Welfare Taj-Mahal, a Courthouse that is a monument to government waste and the scam of environmentalism, a regional jail that will tie up a deputy for hours as he runs a drunk 35 miles away for an overnight stay, now they want 700K to hire more good ol' boys under the fear of Armageddon if we keep the Volunteer System.

Part of the blame rests on you, ShenCo. You keep re-electing these people.

Please understand that I in no way mean that SCFR should go away; we need them in Shenandoah County due to obvious reasons (larger population/smaller amount of volunteers). However, the request for that amount of funds is not feasible in this economy. These funds should be put toward other things such as special educational needs at the Stonewall Jackson school campus.

I asked for proof that these things were needed at this level. I understand that everyone is entitled to prompt and high level of service when they call 911 and I am in no way suggesting that one part of our county should not have it; I am stating that we need to make sure that it is needed and we can't pull resources from another portion of the county during the weekends so that the paid staff can cover the areas that are in need.

Co. 25 and Co. 5 have taken major strides (on their own with no obvious recruitment help from outside their organizations) to cover their first call/first due areas on the weekends-no county (not even Fairfax) can say that a second call or third call will be answered as quickly as the first because they will need to send the second due company, but I have seen both Co 25 and Co 5 cover second calls on their own during the weekend hours. I applaud all of the volunteers who have stepped up and made this a reality.

SCFR and the volunteer system work together to give the best possible care for the citizens of Shenandoah County-let's make sure ALL of the county services can do this before we place more funds in one location and not the other-SCSD and SCPS need things that can't wait any longer.

4Volunteers... Its a simple understanding that the Fire Chief is responsible for the operations of the department. Speaking out in regards to establishing a standard for response and seeking to improve response to the community is the first goal. The second goal would be to make sure that there are adequate resources to make sure those folks responding come home.
On a single family home structure fire incident, NFPA details tasks for 17 personnel in the first 5 minutes. Could you reasonably argue that on every residential structure fire that you will have 17 personnel on the scene? Im sure your response will include something about depends on the time of day, and where its at... etc etc... There are personnel on the books on every volunteer FD that cherry pick the response based on if it sounds good on dispatch. Make it mandatory to staff the station, stop POV response, and then lets compare oranges to oranges.
There are a few insecure folks "squeaky wheels" who are worried about becoming irrelevant. It's time to place the ego aside and do the job. Either pony up and establish a standard for staffing and hold to it or allow the county to provide that minimum. Kudos to Chief Yew for looking out for his people.
$100,000 to recruit and retain volunteers? plain and simple you get what you pay for... next your recruitment campaign will involve a "paid per call" proposal.... lol
Good Day!

I agree there are other departments that need funds as well,I do not doubt that at all,and I will agree that the volunteers in the county try their hardest to keep up on training and recruit and retain as much help as possible,but until there is some type of incentive to volunteer who wants or has the time to devote for the mandated training and time it takes to be on top of your skills.

When 911 is called it is important that you get well trained well qualified personnel promptly,not wait around for John Doe to drive from his house to the Fire or Rescue station then wait on a crew and drive to your house. Volunteers driving POV’s to calls or to the firehouse should be outlawed anyway,it puts them and everybody in their path in danger.

Also there is no accountability for volunteers because as many volunteers like to say “You can’t punish me I’m a volunteer”. I think that fire and rescue volunteers have lost sight of what fire and rescue is all about,they are there to serve the public and if they can’t handle their calls then it is up to the county to provide staffing that can. It’s time for some of these stations to have a reality check and recognize their need for help and stop trying to pull blood from a turnip,the volunteer system has been on a downward spiral for years all across the nation. Fire and Rescue is not a hobby it’s people’s lives,property,and valuables that you are taking care of.

It pains me to say this, but raise my taxes a few cents if it means receiving fast and professional service. If I'm not mistaken, the county pays for the liability insurance for all fire/rescue departments. That also means that the county has a direct responsibility to correct any deficiencies that are identified in the system. When response levels drop below a standard that's been set, this becomes a risk management problem for the insurer. One of two things can happen with this scenario; 1- correct the problem, 2- raise the insurance rate to force the hand to fix the problem. In either scenario, the problem has to be fixed. Enter our conundrum. This particular problem requires an investment in manpower. Emergency Services is a people driven business. It requires people to perform human services. It can't be done by a machine or some well thought out computer program. When volunteer agencies providing a vital infrastructure service approach the county requesting help, it falls within the basic function of government (protecting its people) to respond to that request. For over 15 years there have been patches and band-aids applied to the volunteer system that HAVE NOT worked. It's time to face the music. The volunteer system is teetering on a dangerous ledge. Either the system gets bolstered and corrected, or every person reading this needs to learn emergency medical response and firefighting responsibilities. I'm not saying this is imminent, but if this problem continues, there's a very real chance that the next time you rely on the promise of 911, you may be standing alone. Just something to chew on..............

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