Cathy Dyson writes about King George County.
K.G. fire survey draws rebukes from current volunteers
Floyd Allen compared the rift between former and current fire and rescue volunteers in King George County to the legendary disputes between the Hatfields and McCoys.
“These feuds are tearing apart our community,” said Allen, a volunteer for seven years. “We need to get away from that.”
Allen was among more than 20 representatives of the department—many in uniform—who filed into the Board of Supervisors’ meeting room Tuesday night.
Six people, including former supervisor James Mullen, spoke in support of Chief David Moody and the department, which Allen described as “unified and growing.”
The speakers also railed against a recent survey that asked former volunteers why they left the system and what would bring them back. Several of the questions pertained to Moody, such as if he should be fired or have his power severely limited.
“This is a real setback and a distraction from my day-to-day business,” said Ted Lovell, the department’s volunteer chief. “Everything we do is about delivery of services to our customers, and we’re not doing the best job we can, but we’re doing the best job we can with the manpower we have today.”
Supervisor John LoBuglio said he was trying to do something about the shortage of volunteers when he formed a committee on his own and distributed the questionnaire to people who have left the department.
His voice cracked slightly as he defended his actions, saying “somebody had to go out and finally ask some questions. Let’s get this out in the open once and for all and get everything spoken.”
LoBuglio took abuse Tuesday not only from the public, but also from two fellow board members, Joe Grzeika and Dale Sisson Jr.
Sisson said the questionnaire violated everything he knows about surveys, but Grzeika’s criticism was considerably harsher.
“I find this insulting and demeaning to our fire and rescue team, both paid and volunteers,” Grzeika said.
This “so-called survey is not and has not been endorsed or discussed by this board to my knowledge and has no validity in my mind.”
Valerie Myers, who’s been president of the fire and rescue volunteers for three years, said her fellow members don’t support the survey, either. She said the department is trying to attract “the right kind of volunteer,” not bring back people who left on bad terms.
“I can’t speak for those volunteers who left in recent years, but I can state that most were dismissed for discipline reasons or due to lack of participation in activities,” Myers said.
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425
On the same night that fire and rescue workers and their supporters filled half the seats in the board room, the King George Board of Supervisors added a last-minute item to its agenda.
The board approved $120,665 for extrication rescue tools. Often referred to by the trademarked term Jaws of Life, the tools are used to free motorists trapped inside wrecked cars. King George’s extrication tools are 10 to 30 years old and past their life expectancy, said Chief David Moody.
The parts manufacturer in Winchester gave the county a $26,750 credit on its old tools. Funds to pay for the new items will come from the EMS budget and from funds available from the Virginia Department of Fire Programs.
EQUAL TREATMENT REQUEST SPLITS SUPERVISORS
There’s noticeable tension between King George Supervisors Joe Grzeika and Ruby Brabo, especially after Brabo asked the board to amend its bylaws to make sure that all supervisors are treated the same.
Brabo made the same request May 15. She asked for an amendment that directs county staff to deliver information and reports to all supervisors at the same time. She got no response last month, so she brought it up again Tuesday.
Chairman Cedell Brooks Jr. was absent, so Vice Chairman Dale Sisson Jr. conducted the meeting.
Supervisor John LoBuglio agreed with Brabo, who said she was “simply asking that everyone be treated the same.”
When it was clear that Grzeika and Sisson didn’t support her proposal, Brabo asked if they disagreed with the concept. Sisson said he didn’t see the need to vote on the topic.
Grzeika reminded her that the board adopted bylaws and organizational rules in January.
“I believe they could be amended,” LoBuglio said.
“They could with consensus,” Grzeika added.
“Which we do not have, so we’ll move on to the next item,” Sisson said in closing.
The issue seems to stem from the strategic report prepared by the county’s fire and rescue department. When Brabo held a town-hall meeting March 29, Chief David Moody said the report, which addresses the current and future needs of the department, was ready to be distributed.
Brabo said she kept waiting for it as the board held budget work sessions in April and debated hiring new staff, including three fire and rescue workers. Brabo supported a tax increase for the new hires; Grzeika was against raising taxes. He said he wanted to review the fire department’s strategic plan before making any decisions.
Brabo said she eventually learned from Volunteer Chief Ted Lovell that he already had given a copy to Grzeika and assumed it would be shared with the rest of the board.
Brabo said she became increasingly frustrated when she asked County Administrator Travis Quesenberry for a copy and was told it would be distributed in June.
Brabo said she brought up the fact the rest of the board hadn’t gotten the report with Brooks and Quesenberry before the May 15 meeting. Quesenberry distributed copies that night.
Grzeika said on Tuesday that people in the fire department asked him to look at the strategic plan and provide feedback, which he did. He said that he will continue to work with fire and rescue members as requested.
“It is too bad some see this as some sort of conspiracy or something,” he said. “My hope is they get over it and work together to generate a positive relationship.”
Brabo said she’s been shocked by the whole situation.
“When I was sworn into office, I truly believed I was joining a team. I guess I was naive in that respect,” she said.