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County, fire station work on deal

By Alex Bridges

A rift between Shenandoah County and a volunteer fire station may be on the mend.

The Toms Brook Volunteer Fire Department made specific demands of the county at a Board of Supervisors work session earlier this month. The board did not agree to the terms during the discussion that, at times, turned heated.

In addition to the station needing its living quarters renovated to meet certain code requirements, the department has asked for compensation to cover the increased costs of housing ambulances used by the county's paid emergency responders.

Department of Fire and Rescue Chief Gary Yew said Friday he and Darryl "Peewee" Bowers, a member of the volunteer group's board of directors, have agreed to discuss other options with regards to the renovations of the station. Bowers was unavailable for comment.

"We're going to come together shortly and look at those options and then hopefully come back to the board with another set of recommendations," Yew said.

"It's a vital and strategic location for the county and we'd certainly like to make something work also," Yew added. "So that desire on both parts is still there."

Yew said they are looking at the possibility of scaling back the renovations to save money. Plans originally called for the renovations to create living quarters for both volunteer and paid responders. The county earmarked approximately $94,000 to cover the cost to renovate the Toms Brook Volunteer Fire Department station by making suitable living quarters for paid emergency responders. Station representatives say the cost of the renovations has risen to about $105,000.

The county has memoranda of understanding with each of the volunteer fire companies that set forth the distribution of money collected through ambulance service, also called revenue recovery.

Woodstock attorney Paul J. Neal Jr. represents the organization and, in late January, offered suggestions for a possible agreement between the department and the county. The county would pay the fire company 40 percent of the revenue earned through the operation of rescue vehicles housed at the station beginning Dec. 31 and at the end of each year thereafter. The amounts compensate the station for utilities, cleaning, routine maintenance and wear and tear resulting. However, the station does not contribute volunteer staff on the ambulances -- a requirement for reimbursement of fees collected for service.

Under the deal, payments to the department would cease if the county stored the vehicles in a different location and if career firefighters no longer used the living quarters in the station as temporary housing.

The fire department would provide space for the construction of living quarters. The county would cover the estimated $105,000 cost of the project and oversee the construction. Yew noted that the cost likely has increased in the years since the station received estimates.

The fire department also would execute a reimbursement agreement that calls for the organization to repay the county for the cost of the project should the building not be used to house emergency response vehicles. The reimbursement agreement will be secured by a deed of trust on the station.

As County Administrator Mary T. Price explained to the board, the county would need to agree to the condition related to the disbursement of ambulance-fee money in order for the entire deal to work.

The provider's affiliation and ownership of the ambulance determines the amount of revenue collected and dispersed, Yew explained. The county receives all the revenue collected from an ambulance staffed solely with career personnel. Volunteer departments receive the revenue from volunteer-staffed ambulances. Revenue is split for a combination crew.

To meet the recommendations of the volunteer group, the county would need to enter into a new agreement with the Toms Brook station, Yew explained Friday. In order to share in the revenue recovery from ambulance service, a company must contribute in some way to the response effort, Yew said.

"At this point, Toms Brook is not in a position to do that," Yew said, noting that their roster does have emergency medical technicians.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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