Board OKs fire station staffing plan

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County leaders on Tuesday approved a plan to put more paid firefighters at the station serving Shenandoah Farms.

The Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to continue staffing at Station 6, formerly Shenandoah Farms, using $130,000 from funds set aside in the Department of Fire and Rescue Services budget for unexpected spending needs. The motion also allows the department to reassign two paid positions from Rivermont station to South Warren.

Vice Chairman Tony F. Carter said he knew that the department preferred an option that called for spending an additional $65,000 to hire two firefighters for South Warren station rather than reassign the positions from Rivermont.

“I mean I support this at this point,” Carter said. “I wish we could do better but we’ll get there and we’ll do our best.”

Fork District Supervisor Archie Fox said he’s glad the board plans to take a closer look at the matter during its discussions about the next budget.

Richard Mabie, chief of the Department of Fire and Rescue Services, appeared before the board to make the request.

Department officials presented information to the board at a Nov. 8 work session regarding additional funding for paid responders assigned to Shenandoah Farms and South Warren stations. The county fully staffed the station serving Shenandoah Farms with funding provided by the Virginia Department of Transportation since May 2016 during the construction of the replacement Morgan Ford Bridge over the Shenandoah River. Officials expect the bridge to open to traffic and VDOT funding to end by Jan. 1.

Fire and rescue officials presented two options to supervisors: Approve and absorb funding to continue staffing of the Shenandoah Farms station for fiscal 2018 at a cost of $130,000 and appropriate $65,000 to hire two firefighters to fully staff the South Warren station. The combined estimated cost for staffing the stations at $195,000 would cover the period through June 30. The county has not yet budgeted the ongoing annual cost of $390,000 to keep the positions filled.

The second option calls for the board to approve and absorb the funding to continue staffing of the Shenandoah Farms station from Jan. 1 through June 30 at an estimated cost of $130,000. The agency would then relocate two paid positions at the Rivermont station to South Warren to cover the third shift. This option would take staff away from Rivermont until the county builds a new station for that company.

The agency owns and manages the Shenandoah Farms station and the equipment. The department also set up a logistics division and rapid intervention team at the station, which provides emergency, mutual-aid response to the western part of Clarke County. The station also has aid agreements with Fauquier and Loudoun counties. The South Warren station covers one of the largest response areas in the county and provides assistance to northern Page County.

The department supported the first option but officials pointed out that the second scenario requires no additional funding over the $130,000 set aside in reserves for contingencies. The first option required the county allocate $195,000 from the $230,000 in reserves and an additional $260,000 in fiscal 2019. County Administrator Doug Stanley did not recommend that scenario. Mabie said he can use funds for part-time salaries to backfill the Riverton station until fiscal 2020 when the new facility would open.