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Board OKs funding for firefighter training

WOODSTOCK – Shenandoah County can again hold a firefighter training school after supervisors agreed Tuesday to fund the program.

The Board of Supervisors voted 6-0 to allow the Department of Fire and Rescue to use money from the contingency fund in the fiscal 2017 budget to cover the cost of conducting the firefighter academy. District 5 Supervisor Marsha Shruntz made the motion, seconded by District 4 Supervisor Cindy Bailey, though the board had to add the unannounced action to the meeting agenda.

The fate of the department-hosted firefighter academy came in question in recent months as the county ran out of money ordinarily allocated for the classes. The department paid an official overtime to lead the training. The board learned that the department had spent almost all of its allocated funds for overtime pay.

County Administrator Mary T. Price said $300,000 remains in the contingency fund. The academy costs approximately $20,000, which the county pays to the trainer as overtime.

District 1 Supervisor John R. “Dick” Neese noted that the board had agreed last week to wait and continue its discussion about the academy at a future meeting that Richard Hockman, president of the Shenandoah County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association, could attend. Price had recommended the board put off its discussion of the matter at its work session last Thursday.

Bailey asked Neese what additional information the board needs from Hockman. Bailey had made a similar comment at the board’s work session.

“The volunteers need the training,” Bailey said. “We’ve always provided that. … He laid it all out in the letter. I’m not sure why we need to wait.”

Neese said the department didn’t advertise the academy last fall as it usually does. Neese expressed doubt that the county could hold the academy in February without having advertised the program to gauge attendance.

The Department of Fire and Rescue needs to hit a certain number of students in order to hold the academy, Chief Tim Williams said.

Assistant County Administrator Evan Vass said the board faces another problem – the department training chief, Billy Streett Jr., recently took the operations chief job. The department hasn’t filled the training position. Bailey asked if Streett could train one more class.

“We’ll make it work,” Vass said.

Vice Chairman Richard Walker asked if the training position would be compensated at $30 per hour calculated as overtime or if the department could pay the trainer a stipend similar to how the school system compensates athletic coaches.

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