A proposal from Albemarle County to take temporary operational control of the Scottsville Volunteer Rescue Squad is not supported by some squad board members.
In December, the squad board’s chairman, John Waits, sent a letter to Albemarle County Fire Rescue Chief Dan Eggleston asking the county to take over its day-to-day operations because it has been unable to attract sufficient volunteer membership.
Since then, ACFR has started providing EMS coverage from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and weekends, through voluntary overtime by paid fire rescue staff. ACFR already has been staffing the rescue squad from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays.
“It’s still not an acceptable agreement from my perspective, we’ve been forced to retain an attorney because what we had hoped was going to be a cooperative agreement was turned into this overreaching agreement by the [county] attorney,” Waits said.
“At this point, my board isn’t going to be willing to accept this agreement,” he said.
According to a news release from the county, the proposed agreement was provided to the rescue squad’s board on Thursday. Waits said he had been appointed by his board to negotiate with the county, and that he found out from someone at ACFR that a draft of the agreement was being sent to his board.
A release was sent to local media at 9 a.m. Thursday for a 10 a.m. interviewing opportunity with Eggleston and Supervisor Rick Randolph, who represents the Scottsville District.
Waits said he doesn’t agree with the indemnification/hold harmless section of the proposed agreement, nor with parts of the dissolution section.
“I think it’s an example of the county devaluing the southern part of Albemarle County,” he said.
The proposed agreement stipulates that within six months, the volunteer roster will have seen a net increase of five members from an initial roster submitted to ACFR within the first month after the proposed agreement is executed. Within one year, the volunteer roster will have seen a net increase of 10 members, and by the end of 18 months, the increase would be 15 members from the initial roster.
“Albemarle County Fire Rescue has problems with recruitment and retainment, so how can they ask us to get people in here and not pay them when the county can’t get people in and pay them?” said Eddie Payne, a Scottsville Rescue board member and Scottsville town councilor.
Waits said he does like parts of the proposed agreement, which would add an operational commander who would report to Eggleston. He said they’ve had a good relationship working with ACFR.
“It is my belief that if we provide professional leadership through a department captain, we will be more attractive to recruit volunteers and we will be able to train them better, and we can get a competitive advantage over the other places around the state that are trying to recruit EMTs,” Waits said.
The Board of Supervisors discussed the agreement Wednesday night in a closed session, Randolph said Thursday.
“We’re going to do everything as a board possible to support it,” Randolph said. “That doesn’t mean we want to do it on the cheap. We want to try to preserve this culture, which is so important in so many communities.”
He said Scottsville Rescue isn’t seeing a replenishing of volunteers because that part of the county hasn’t seen growth.
“The reality is that we know that in probably 20 years time, there may only be one or two volunteer companies left in this county,” Randolph said.
When asked if the county is looking to take over Scottsville Rescue permanently, he said he didn’t think the Board of Supervisors is ready to do that.
“We don’t want to say everything has been explored in the realm of possibility to resuscitate and revive and resurrect this rescue squad,” Randolph said.
Payne disagreed, and said he does not think they’ll be able to recruit enough volunteers, but he’s open to trying the new operational command.
“If we can get enough volunteers, I would be in total support of a volunteer organization, but it’s not going to happen,” he said.
“I predict it will be a total paid organization within two years. It pains me to say that.”
Payne said he was a founding member of Scottsville Rescue in 1974, but that “this is not the rescue squad of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s; it’s different now.”
“Young people don’t have time to do it with the other commitments that they have in the community, their families and their jobs, and that’s the problem.”