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Toms Brook fire company delays action on county deal

By Alex Bridges

The fate of a deal between Shenandoah County and a volunteer fire department remains uncertain.

Members of Toms Brook Volunteer Fire Department agreed at their regular meeting Thursday to table until October the memorandum of agreement with the county that calls for funding renovations to the agency's station on U.S. 11.

Department representatives remain mum about the agency's action. Chief Jason Shipe wouldn't say why members tabled the agreement to its October meeting.

"I can't discuss that right now," Shipe said.

It appears the volunteer group doesn't plan to take up the agreement at its September meeting.

Assistant County Administrator Evan Vass said Friday that staff members have not formally discussed the volunteer group's decision to delay a vote on the agreement.

"There's not been any official communication to my knowledge to Shenandoah County Fire and Rescue [Department] or county administration with the news of an October time frame," Vass said. "I would say that we will have a discussion about our plans. But at this stage, as of this afternoon, there are no plans to change anything but simply acknowledge that Toms Brook Volunteer Fire Department did not make a decision relative to the agreement and that they are going to take it up at a later date."

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted 4-2 to approve the agreement that calls for the county to provide $95,000 toward the renovation project. The county allocated the amount in the current budget. The volunteer group must renovate the current living quarters to meet building code requirements and provide the county's paid firefighters assigned to Toms Brook a place to sleep in the station. The county building official deemed the living quarters out of compliance with the code. Currently the station provides a temporary sleeping area for firefighters in an office in the building.

Vass said he was unaware of any deadline the department needed to meet to make renovations to the living quarters. The county Department of Fire and Rescue and the administration would need to meet to discuss, Vass said.

The agreement also calls for the county to give the volunteer organization any unspent money from the allocation, up to $4,000, to cover some utility costs incurred by the station housing firefighters and the vehicles.

Department representatives warned supervisors at a board work session Aug. 7 that while members of the volunteer organization likely would support most of the terms of the agreement, they might take issue with the amount the county would give to help the agency cover utility costs.

At the work session, District 5 Supervisor Marsha Shruntz, who represents the Toms Brook area, pushed for the Board of Supervisors to put the agreement on its Tuesday agenda and to take action. Other supervisors have voiced concern that the county needed to move forward on the matter that has gone on for at least two years. District 4 Supervisor Cindy Bailey suggested at the work session that the board wait to take action on the agreement until after the volunteer group has a chance to discuss and make a decision on the offer given that the department would meet a week later.

Shruntz said Friday afternoon she did not understand why the volunteer fire department would delay action on the agreement for two months.

"It's just one of those situations where if they're not going to say anything that's what we have to go by," Shruntz said.

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

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