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Fire, rescue requests get OK from board

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Firefighter turnout gear will be replenished

By John Barnhart

    Two requests by Bedford County’s fire and rescue department dominated the Board of Supervisors’ discussions Monday night.
    One was a request by Jack Jones, the county’s chief of fire and rescue, for $80,000, to be transferred from the contingency fund for personal protection equipment for firefighters. According to Jones, the fire and rescue capital improvement plan (CIP) has had a line item for this equipment that has not been funded for four years.
    Jones said it has reached the point that the county’s volunteer fire department chiefs report that they have no turnout gear to issue new members, nor do they have anything to replace badly worn or damaged gear that current firefighters have. Money will provide three sets of turnout gear for each of the county’s 12 volunteer fire companies.
    “We recognize this as a safety issue,” Jones said.
    The supervisors unanimously approved the request.
    Another request, that was unanimously approved,   generated considerable discussion prior to a final vote. This was a request from County Administrator Mark Reeter to move $250,000 from the contingency fund to the fire and rescue department’s apparatus CIP. This would bring it back up to the $497, 655 level it was at before the supervisors voted to allocate $250,000 from the CIP to assist the Bedford Volunteer Fire Department with the replacement of its heavy rescue vehicle.
    According to a memo from Reeter in the supervisors’ agenda packet, the county is awaiting a report from the county’s fire commission on a new approach to providing capital funds for apparatus. The supervisors fire and rescue committee, consisting of District 4 Supervisor John Sharp and District 7 Supervisor Tammy Parker, will review the plan before submitting it to the board of supervisors.
    Jones noted that the average cost of a pumper is $500,000 and that the net profit from the chicken dinners fire departments hold amount to only a couple of dollars per serving.
    “The board has not been presented with any facts or figures,” said Parker, who was concerned about moving this money at this time. She wanted the request referred back to the fire and rescue committee and a discussion about what the department needs are.
    “I want to know what the need is,” she said.
    “I have about $1 million in expectations,” Parker added. “Somebody is going to be disappointed.
    Parker said that four departments are expecting to get apparatus through a lease/purchase deal and the supervisors have not yet discussed the lease/purchase idea.
    Her motion to have this referred to the fire and rescue committee failed on a 3-4 vote with Parker, Sharp and District 6 Supervisor Annie Pollard voting in favor and Board Chairman Steve Arrington joining District 1 Supervisor Bill Thomasson, District 2 Supervisor Curry Marin and District 3 Supervisor Roger Cheek opposing.
    Cheek then moved to move $250,000 to the fire and rescue apparatus CIP with a review of apparatus needs to be conducted by the fire and rescue committee. This motion passed unanimously.