By Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- Living quarters at the Toms Brook Volunteer Fire Department for Shenandoah County's paid firefighters remain inadequate, officials say.
How and when the county helps pay to improve the area where firefighters stay remains uncertain. The ongoing issue came up for further discussion at a Board of Supervisors work session on Thursday.
Chief Gary Yew, of the Shenandoah County Fire and Rescue Department recommended that the county continue to work with the Toms Brook organization and move forward with improving the station and living quarters for the paid firefighters.
The department keeps paid firefighters at stations in Toms Brook and Mt. Jackson. Fire officials indicated the county needs to keep firefighters at Toms Brook given its strategic location between the jurisdiction's busiest stations in Strasburg and Woodstock. Toms Brook firefighters often respond to emergency calls in both of those locations, officials said.
Firefighters housed at the station now stay downstairs in the social hall rather than upstairs in the building, according to County Administrator Douglas Walker.
"The determination was made at the best interest of all parties to relocate the staff," Walker said, adding that "you won't see anyone back upstairs unless there's a renovation that makes it compliant."
Yew noted that keeping firefighters in the social hall is "obviously not ideal" and not a permanent solution. Yew indicated housing firefighters in the social hall rather than upstairs came as part of an arrangement made between the fire marshal and the Toms Brook organization.
An agreement between the county and all-volunteer fire and rescue departments allows any of the organizations to come before the board to ask for financial assistance on a capital improvement project. Toms Brook is the first department to act under the agreement. But as Walker explained the Shenandoah County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association must first consider the capital improvement project proposal and give its recommendation to the supervisors before the county can move forward.
"It really becomes a decision by this board about whether it is a reasonable request or not," Walker told supervisors.
The association meets Aug. 20, at which time its members may make its recommendation.
Yew presented information to supervisors as the board had requested at a prior meeting. He also provided a financial statement from the fire station.
"I certainly think in reviewing their financial statement I think this body could substantiate assisting them," Yew said. "Their financial statement reflects that there have been some loss in revenue for them in the last few years."
The volunteer fire department recently had to sell an engine to raise money in order to get on stronger financial standing, Yew noted. The department has expressed a need to replace the engine in the future and so the organization does not have as much capital to put toward improvements at the station, according to Yew.
By that account, Yew recommended the county move forward to help the organization renovate the station's living quarters. The chief suggested the county could do so through grants or loans.