EMS vehicles debated
By Nancy Lindsey
Members of the Patrick County Board of Supervisors argued at the Aug. 18 meeting about the use of an old emergency medical services (EMS) vehicle to supplement the new EMS vehicle and ambulances used by volunteer rescue squads.
Dan River District Supervisor Roger Hayden said he had received a lot of criticism from his constituents because the old vehicle is still being used.
"We were told the old vehicle was worn out, had excessive mileage and needed to be replaced," Hayden said, "but I've seen both on the road at the same time. The old one needs to be taken off the road and sold or donated to a squad."
Blue Ridge District Supervisor Karl Weiss said he understood that the old vehicle was being used by Lamont Bryant and Pamela Nowlin Smith, part-time assistants to Steve Allen, emergency management coordinator.
"Both were actually on different calls," Allen said. He pointed out that when he submitted his departmental budget, it included additional insurance and maintenance for the old vehicle.
When there are emergency calls from separate areas of the county, "we can go in different directions," Allen said.
Weiss said the emergency management department took in "more than enough" in soft billing (about $22,000) to pay two part-time salaries.
Smith River District Supervisor Crystal Harris, board chairman and captain of the Smith River Rescue Squad, said there are many times when the volunteer rescue squads are not available and the county EMS workers have to respond.
Harris told Hayden that on a recent emergency call, "the tones went out seven times and nobody went out to cover it...Cana had to come down" from Carroll County.
Peters Creek District Supervisor Lock Boyce said the basic issue is that the supervisors were told the vehicle was so old and had so many miles on it that it was "junk."
The board contributed $25,000 toward the purchase of the new vehicle, Boyce said, adding that he didn't know why the county needed such a large truck for EMS calls.
Boyce said he also found it hard to believe that $22,000 in soft billing would pay two salaries.
"We were deceived," Boyce said.
"I know Steve Allen hasn't deceived anybody," Weiss said. "He just decided to use it because he has more personnel now--and one of them is making less than the janitor.
"Now you want to cut the vehicle," Weiss said. "It can respond during the day when volunteers can't respond, because they're working for a living.
It would be a "tragedy" to take the old vehicle off the road," Weiss said.
Allen said the assistants can respond to calls in their personal vehicles, but they have "nothing to respond with," because they are not allowed to carry oxygen or medications in their personal vehicles.
Board members also argued about the practice of waiving business inspection fees for businesses in an Enterprise Zone, an area designated by the state as ready for development.
Mayo River District Supervisor Danny Foley said the building inspection fees are more than $100,000 lower than they should be because of waivers.
County Administrator Tom Rose said waiving the fees is one of the benefits the county can give a business in an Enterprise Zone.
"The Enterprise Zone encourages development in areas where there already is development," Hayden said. "I don't think it's mandatory."
"It's not mandatory but it is widely used," Rose said.
"I don't remember voting to waive the fee," Hayden said.
"It's a good tool to use," Weiss said. "The tax revenues we get are a hundredfold what the fee is, and it's a good gesture on the county's part."
"I don't think we collected a dime from Walmart," Boyce said. "It seems to me the county has habitually catered to millionaires at the expense of people who work and pay their taxes."
In other matters at the Aug. 18 meeting:
*Treasurer Sandra Stone gave the end of the fiscal year report.
*Rose reported on energy cost savings and Anthem health insurance.
*The board went into closed session to discuss personnel, legal, contract and real estate matters, but took no action after returning to open session.