Supervisors talk to volunteers in member’s district
WOODSTOCK – A couple of Shenandoah County supervisors spoke recently with a volunteer fire and rescue group about efforts to help responders.
The meeting came as county officials work on ways to improve emergency services and smooth relations between volunteers and paid staff. Officials are creating a committee made up of volunteers, paid responders and other residents to talk about the county’s emergency response needs. Supervisors contemplated the panel’s make up last Thursday at a work session.
The discussion came after the Board of Supervisors voted to approve a fiscal 2017 budget that lacks funds for additional employees, including paid responders as requested by the Department of Fire and Rescue.
District 4 Supervisor Cindy Bailey explained Thursday that members of the Conicville Volunteer Fire Department asked her to update the agency on the budget. District 3 Supervisor Richard Walker joined Bailey for the meeting with the volunteers. The state’s open meeting laws allow two members of a board to meet without needing to notify the public or the media.
“Again, whoever calls I talk with them,” Bailey said. “I don’t say where are you calling from in the county. Obviously I found out eventually and I have, again, talked with individuals throughout the volunteer community in reference to the concerns.”
Bailey has pushed for the county to reassign its roving unit to Conicville but the board did not support the suggestion. District 2 Supervisor Steve Baker, who represents the Conicville area, said at one point that he did not want to micromanage the fire and rescue department. Baker sought to put paid responders back at Conicville but that effort failed when a majority of the board voted to keep spending levels flat.
Bailey said Conicville representatives called her after the budget passed and asked if the board approved additional responders. Bailey recalled offering to talk to them about the outcome as well as the discussion she and other county officials had about the roving unit. Bailey invited Walker to the meeting since he also supported her suggestion to put the roving unit back at the station.
Bailey said she did not reach out to Baker to invite him to the meeting.
The discussion among the two supervisors and volunteers centered around finding ways, within means, to improve emergency response in the Conicville area, Bailey said. The next step will be to meet with County Administrator Mary T. Price and Fire and Rescue Chief Gary Yew and continue the discussion.
“I’m looking for solutions utilizing the resources that we have and will continue to do so,” Bailey said.
But Baker took issue with two supervisors meeting with the Conicville responders. At the supervisors’ meeting Tuesday, Baker did not identify the members by name that he said met with the rescue workers last week at the Conicville Volunteer Fire Department. Baker’s district includes the Conicville station.
“There were some numbers mentioned of how many members they had according to (Shenandoah County Fire and Rescue Department) it was just off the chart, unbelievable,” Baker told the board. “But, anyway, I feel it was very unprofessional for those two to have that meeting. You know I hear about it afterwards, that’s fine.
“I also hope that they made comment that Steve Baker in the budget asked for career help for Conicville but was turned down,” Baker added. “Now, I live in this community and I hear that siren go off all hours of the night, mornings and I just hope and pray that someone can answer it because there’s not the volunteers out there to do that and I hope that career (crew) can come elsewhere.”
Baker said he’s remained a supporter of the Conicville Volunteer Fire Department and understands the importance of volunteer and paid responders. Baker cited a recent incident in which crews from various areas including Conicville responded to a call for an unresponsive heart attack victim.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org