Emergency services remain concern for New Market

A New Market man raised concerns Tuesday with Shenandoah County leaders about fire and rescue services in town.

The Department of Fire and Rescue pulled its paid responders from the New Market station about a month ago to alleviate an unexplained situation at the facility. Later that same day, Town Council voted to appoint Gary Yew, chief of the county department, as the new chief of the volunteer organization, replacing Robbie Smith. Yew has said he would like to see the paid responders return to the New Market station.

The county also is in the process of creating a task force to investigate fire and rescue services for the jurisdiction. County Administrator Mary T. Price said Wednesday that she’s wanted for some time to look at fire and rescue services overall. Price said she wanted to wait until the board’s work session Feb. 4 to discuss the idea in more detail with supervisors. Yew has been in contact with the volunteer leadership since taking over as chief, Price added.

New Market resident Sonny Mongold suggested Tuesday that the Board of Supervisors set up a committee to look at what happened that led up to the county and town making changes at the station and with the volunteer organization.

Mongold spoke during the public comment portion of the Board of Supervisors’ meeting. While Mongold said he didn’t intend for members to take his remarks personally, the resident questioned why county officials appeared to have let a situation at the station escalate.

“It seems like all this escalated back when there was problem with the (operational-medical director) or their medical records being done,” Mongold said at the board meeting. “I can’t understand how it escalated into the turmoil that it did without either you guys or somebody in the staff (noticing it) or why that wasn’t dealt with at the time before it got to the situation that it got to.”

Mongold said he applauded New Market Town Council’s decision to replace the volunteer organization’s Chief Robbie Smith with Gary Yew, the chief of the Shenandoah County Fire and Rescue Department. Council had the power to do so under state code, Mongold noted.

“The thing I don’t understand is when the county chief was appointed chief, he abandoned ship; he pulls all the equipment out,” Mongold added. “I mean, if you got a problem, deal with it.”

Mongold expressed concern that the situation in New Market might start to affect the area’s rating for fire insurance and thus the cost for coverage.

No supervisor commented on Mongold’s concerns or about the issue though board members usually do not respond to remarks made during this portion of their meeting.

The turmoil became public last summer as county officials revealed the volunteer organization faced losing its state license to provide emergency medical services. Despite efforts by the volunteer group to meet certain reporting requirements, the organization’s license expired. Another effort to allow the organization to operate its emergency medical services equipment and vehicles under the county’s license also fell through.

Mongold’s comments about the county not preventing the situation from escalating echoed those made earlier in the summer by District 4 Supervisor Cindy Bailey. At the time county officials and other board members sought to keep information about the situation with the license behind closed doors.

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