Board votes to add two firefighters to Conicville

WOODSTOCK – Shenandoah County plans to add two emergency responders to a volunteer station, far short of the nine the agency requested.

The Board of Supervisors’ decision left some representatives of the Conicville Volunteer Fire Department disappointed. They said that adding two paid firefighters/emergency medical technicians won’t help the staffing situation.

Supervisors voted Tuesday to direct the Department of Fire and Rescue to hire two firefighters/emergency medical technicians and assign the recruits to the Conicville Volunteer Fire Department. The county will use money from the contingency fund in the current budget to cover the cost through June 30.

Conicville and Orkney Springs Fire and Rescue requested that the county add nine emergency responders to their stations to provide 24-7 coverage. Officials said hiring nine responders would cost the county roughly $525,000 per year or about $218,000 for the rest of the fiscal period.

The county department has, since early December, used current staff members and paid them overtime to provide coverage for the time and days of the week requested by the volunteers at Conicville. The action should help the county replace most of the overtime needed to staff the station.

District 2 Supervisor Steven Baker, who represents Conicville, made a motion to direct the county department to hire nine responders for the stations. Baker’s motion failed on a 3-3 vote. Chairman Conrad Helsley and District 1 Supervisor John R. “Dick” Neese voted with Baker in support of the measure. Vice Chairman Richard Walker, District 4 Supervisor Cindy Bailey and District 5 Supervisor Marsha Shruntz voted against Baker’s motion.

The board voted on Baker’s motion after members discussed the matter and heard from representatives of the Conicville agency.

Walker then made a motion to direct the county to hire two responders that the department would assign at Conicville and to cover the cost by using money from the contingency fund in the current budget.

“It may not be enough but we’ll start to address the problem,” Walker said.

Walker’s motion sparked concern among the volunteers and Chief Tim Williams, of the Department of Fire and Rescue, tried to explain to the board that hiring two additional people would not provide the relief needed at the station. Rather, the county would need to hire 2½ people to fill the need, Williams said.

Bailey then made a motion to amend Walker’s proposal by calling for the county to provide the additional half-position to maintain coverage by Conicville and to cover the cost by using funds in the budget allocated for part-time salaries, overtime or the contingency.

County Attorney Jason Ham recommended that Walker and Bailey include language in their motions that the action would leave it up to Williams’s discretion as to where he would assign firefighters. Bailey said she and Walker don’t want Williams to assign the additional responders to any stations other than Conicville.

Tarinda Showman, president of Conicville, said that many volunteers attended the meeting with county fire officials on Dec. 21 and gave their input on the station’s needs because supervisors asked for options. However, Showman noted none of the options presented by the volunteers were part of the motion before the board.

“I would also say that I’m very concerned that the management is being laid in the hands of the Board of Supervisors and not in our fire chief,” Showman said. “We have him for our fire chief for a reason.”

Bailey noted that she had asked at the board’s work session that Conicville’s request be discussed but not acted upon because members had just received the station’s options. Bailey added that she had asked for other information and data related to the station’s needs.

The board voted 6-0 on Walker’s motion with Bailey’s amendment.

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