Fire, rescue chiefs back funding plan

County officials and volunteer fire and rescue chiefs have signed a deal to radically change how they pay for emergency apparatus such as trucks and ambulances.

For the rest of fiscal year 2020, which began in July, the 11 volunteer agencies have access to a pot of up to $385,000 in capital funding to pay for apparatus. Volunteers will submit requests for other capital expenses like fire station building repairs the same way county departments do during the annual budget process. The Louisa County Board of Supervisors will decide which projects to fund. 

Until now, the board has given the volunteer agencies $300,000 each year for capital expenses, divided equally among them regardless of need.  

The Management Oversight Committee, which includes the 11 chiefs and two citizen representatives with input from Keith Greene, county fire and emergency services chief, voted unanimously to back the new process at a meeting in August. The individual volunteer agencies will submit funding requests for new apparatus to the committee, which will prioritize them and forward requests to the board. 

“This resolution has caused some strife down there, but all the agencies have gotten onto the same page and they are behind this,” board Chairman Toni Williams (Jackson district) said at the Sept. 3 meeting. Williams and Supervisor Duane Adams (Mineral district) serve as the board’s liaisons to the management committee.

Joe Gordon, Bumpass Volunteer Fire Department Chief and the management committee chairman, could not be reached for comment.

“Something had to happen and this was the most favorable thing,” Marty Hart, Holly Grove Volunteer Fire Department chief, said of the new funding arrangement. “If an agency needs money for a new roof, it should be a little easier. Hopefully the board will fund the capital improvement budget a little more than they have.”

The supervisors also agreed to pay off all debt on apparatus purchases accrued by the volunteer agencies prior to July 18.  

“The thing that pleases me about this document is that it was drafted by the departments and the chiefs themselves,” Adams said. “Instead of 11 different departments, we can look at this holistically. I think it’s a huge move forward for the county.”

The board also voted on Sept. 3 to appoint Robert Dubé, former Louisa County fire and emergency services chief, to serve as a citizen representative to the Management Oversight Committee. Dubé went on to be county administrator in Louisa and fire chief in Alexandria before his recent retirement.

Supervisor Tommy Barlow (Mountain Road district) said he was concerned that as former fire and EMS chief, Dubé might not be the best choice on a committee created to give the volunteer companies a voice.

“I’d like it to work, I just don’t think it’s a good fit,” Barlow said.

The board voted to appoint Dubé despite Barlow’s concerns, with Williams joining Barlow in opposition.