Fire station’s future still clouded after meeting

By Joe Beck

Warren County Fire Chief Richard E. Mabie had hoped that a public meeting would point the way toward settling the future of fire station No. 6 that was the home of the defunct Shenandoah Farms Volunteer Fire Department.

But Mabie said Monday he was “a little bit disappointed” in the on Oct. 20 meeting’s results. Attendance – about 30 – was less than the 50 to 70 he hoped to attract. The ideas brainstormed tended to focus more on administrative issues than the urgent problem of attracting more volunteers to ride on fire trucks and in ambulances, Mabie said.

“We had two people interested in helping do administrative functions, but we got no applications for volunteer firefighters,” Mabie said. “Of course, we’re not done. We’re just going to research and look into some other ways of getting the word out.”

Mabie has grown increasingly worried about the cost of maintaining full and part-time paid members of the fire and rescue service at the station on Howellsville Road. The paid staff arrived when the county took over station operations and disbanded the Shenandoah Farms Volunteer Fire Department in June after years of scandal.

The paid staff was intended only as a stopgap measure until enough new volunteers were recruited to replace those who were banished from the station as a result of the takeover.

Since then, Mabie said, the fire and rescue service has poured $120,000 into staffing the station to allow for 24-hour/7 day a week service. None of the money was budgeted for this fiscal year.

Some of the money has come from what Mabie described as “assets” from the old volunteer department. He cited money left in the old fire company’s accounts as an example, although the county has spent the remnants of it since the takeover.

Mabie said his next step will be to assemble a plan that he intends to present to the Board of Supervisors on Nov. 6. Earlier this month, Mabie cited a reduction in staffing at the station that would shrink its operation to daytime hours five days a week as one option. He also mentioned a special fire service tax as another possibility.

He declined Monday to discuss specific options he is considering but warned that the proposal may not be popular with those living in station 6’s service area.

“I don’t know if they’re going to like some of the options coming before the board,” Mabie said of the more than 3,000 households in the fire station service area.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com