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Bedford Lifesaving Crew dissolves

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Has become more difficult to retain, attract crew members

By John Barnhart

    After 74 years, the Bedford Lifesaving Crew has dissolved itself.
    On Monday night, representatives of the crew presented a resolution to the supervisors, which the supervisors unanimously accepted, turning over all of crew’s property and equipment to the county.
    John Messier said that the increased demands for training, the increased amount of medical reporting for each call and the modern economy that gives people less time for volunteer work means that it’s increasingly difficult to recruit and retain volunteers.
    Tina Witt, a member of the Crew’s board  of  directors,  said the Bedford Crew is the busiest lifesaving group in the county. Most members have either full time jobs or are full time students.
    “Members quickly become burnt out,” she said.
    “The board of directors of the Bedford Lifesaving Crew became aware of the downward trend in call response percentages in June, 2011,” Messier said.
    Messier said efforts to reverse this trend did not work and board members realized this problem wasn’t just affecting the Bedford Crew. Other agencies, both in the county and elsewhere, are experiencing that problem.
    “The volunteer EMS system that has been sustained in our county since 1943 is no longer sustainable,” Messier said. “The operating model of volunteer EMS providers supplemented by career staff should be consciously transitioned to one of career staff supplemented by volunteer EMS providers.”
    According to the resolution presented to the supervisors, the Lifesaving Crew’s board of directors reached the conclusion in June, 2016, that the only solution was to turn over its physical assets and equipment to the county.
    The crew’s real estate will be leased to the county and the crew will make grants for rescue training. The Bedford Lifesaving Crew will continue to exist as a support agency for volunteer EMS.
    The Bedford Crew Hall will be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week by career staff and volunteers. People who volunteer to be an EMS provider anywhere in the county will get their training for free and current EMTs or paramedics will be able to get continued training for free. The Bedford Lifesaving Crew remains a 501 (c) 3 non-profit and donations will go toward volunteer EMS training.
    In other business Monday, the supervisors unanimously approved a 195-foot monopole cell tower off U. S. 460 in the Blue Ridge area. This will host equipment that will replace equipment Shentel currently has on AEP power transmission towers. Shentel is upgrading to a 4G system and the new equipment will be too heavy for the AEP towers.  The new tower will provide space for Shentel’s equipment and space for three other providers to locate equipment.
    The supervisors voted 5-2 to charge a $3 fee on certain court filings, starting on July 1. This fee is expected to generate $30,000 each year and the money will be earmarked for future courthouse repairs. District 4 Supervisor John Sharp and District 5 supervisor Tommy Scott cast the dissenting votes.
    The supervisors also voted 6-1 to amend language in the zoning ordinance to make outdoor events a use by right in most zones and require people holding these events to notify law enforcement and county EMS of events over a certain size. Sponsors will also have to show they have adequate toilet facilities and have provided for overflow parking. Church functions  and county sponsored events  are exempt. The requirement kicks in for events that are expected to draw at least 500 people or at least 250 people at any one time.
    Scott cast the lone dissenting vote.