Charles City Volunteer Fire and EMS, on the precipice with county, may terminate services by Dec. 2022
Charles City County’s Volunteer Fire Department’s time to serving the county may be coming to an end.
Charles City’s Volunteer Fire and EMS Department is expected to have their designation of providing services terminated by the end of December 2022.
News on the revocation arrived by notification to the department prior to Tuesday’s board of supervisors meeting. That prompted a response from two individuals who represented the volunteer squad.
Chris Carroll, the chief of Charles City County Volunteer’s Fire and EMS Department, approached county supervisors during the public comment period voicing concerns about information he had received from the county about the squad’s operations.
“Earlier today, I was notified that the board [of supervisors] has made a decision to support our department with a $15,000 contribution and a $4,000 towards stipend compensation,” he said. “I was further informed that on 12-31-22 (Dec. 31, 2022) that our department designation as an emergency response agency will be terminated.
“I am here to employ the board to reconsider their decision to ask the board to fund us $15,000 and to extend our designation as an emergency response agency until June 2023,” Carroll continued. “This will allow for us for a more direct conversation than just a few hours.”
“The loss of the designation means we wouldn’t be able to provide aid more than the first aid level,” said Tom Nuckols, President of the Charles City Volunteer Fire and EMS. “Even though we’re certified firefighters and EMTs.
“We feel kind of betrayed with the loss of this,” he added. “I hope you reconsider this.”
During board directives, District 2 representative and board chairman Bill Coada asked Charles City Fire and EMS Chief Jimmy Johnson about the issue.
“Mr. Nuckols said that they wouldn’t be allowed to respond after Dec. 31? Is that true or not?”
“That’s correct,” Johnson responded.
“I didn’t know that,” Coada said.
Coada then addressed the situation in a public forum.
“The reason that this became a hot topic was I was signing checks each year, and when I came across the second batch of stipend checks, this is when the questions came up about the volunteers.
“I requested a lot of information from Mr. Johnson, and the first bit of information I received was that the volunteers responded to 12 percent of the calls in 2021-22,” Coada continued. “Then I started looking at all of the dollars spent and the amount of money we are investing and converting from ETS, and that’s when we really looked into the conversation.”
The budget for Charles City’s Fire and EMS department is approximately $1.5 million for the FY2022-23 fiscal year.
Coada added comments that the state wanted localities to move away from volunteers. When Coada had dialogue with Johnson about the volunteer responses and the whereabouts of their responses, he said he didn’t know when they would respond. When asked if the volunteers had a schedule, Johnson responded that they did not have one.
“That’s why we arrived at the conclusion of the Volunteer Fire and EMS.”
The chairman also mentioned a situation in the past where the volunteers notified the county that they would sell equipment and terminate their services in 30 days if they were not funded. Other instances include the county utilizing the facility of the volunteers to store fire trucks and ambulances. But when the county did not choose to fund the volunteers financially, the volunteer’s board elected to raise the rent to store the vehicles there before both parties were able to diffuse the situation. Still, the possibility of that taking place led to a fire storage facility being constructed at the Ruthville Gymnasium complex.
“These are some of the factors that we used to arrive to go the route with paid fire and EMS in the county,” Coada concluded.
After the meeting concluded, members of Charles City County Volunteer Fire and EMS sent a press release to the Chronicle on the situation.
“We learned just prior to the May 24 [Charles City] board of supervisors’ meeting that we’d receive $15,000 in funding but would not be able to run calls effective Jan. 1, 2023.,” the statement read. “For the current year, we were given only $30,000 to cover our operating expenses by the county, with all other funding we received coming via donations and grants.
“We have been providing services to our citizens for almost 50 years and feel that the decision by the administration who knows nothing about volunteer services of this kind is like being told ‘You’re not needed anymore’,” the press release continued. “It is hard to have a schedule when you’re a volunteer. You never know when there might be a call and who is available.
“In our opinion, the current fire administration has never been volunteer friendly and has been seeking to get rid of us,” the letter wrapped up. “If this is the end, we want to thank all the citizens, churches, auxiliary members, and Miss CCVF/EMS contestants for their support of this agency with their time and monetary donations since we began. Most of all, we thank those who have volunteers and sacrificed their time to protect this county from the beginning.”
One final factor that is playing a part is that according to one citizen, the land that the volunteers currently utilize for their station would revert back to the family that donated it.
“That land was solely donated to help support a fire station,” said Lloyd Carter Sr. “That was the designated purpose and it will go back to the family if the volunteers end.”