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Culpeper panel wants audit of volunteer fire system

Despite a mild protest from local Fire and Rescue Association President Anthony Clatterbuck, the Culpeper County Public Safety Committee voted Tuesday to seek an independent audit of the county’s volunteer fire system.

“An audit is not going to be of any great value to us,” Clatterbuck told the rest of the committee. “They’re just going to tell us we need a paid fire chief—and we don’t.”

The Virginia Department of Fire Programs will be asked to audit the county’s services sometime in February, according to Culpeper Emergency Services Director Tom Williams. That audit, which will be performed at each of the county’s seven fire companies, should take only a few hours of volunteers’ time, Williams said.

“I hate audits, but they always seem to come up with some little nugget,” committee member Sue Hansohn said. “Maybe this one will, too.”

The committee also made another push to persuade volunteer companies to bill for rescue service. The county’s career staff already does this, but volunteer companies oppose doing so.

County Administrator Frank Bossio said that during last month’s fire-and-rescue summit he heard volunteer companies saying they were strapped for cash, but didn’t want to spend more time raising funds.

“The money is going to have to come from somewhere,” Bossio said.

It was suggested that some companies might want to bill for services, while others might not. Clatterbuck was also against that proposal.

“If the companies are going to break down [and act independently], then the Fire and Rescue Association is a waste of time,” he said.

The committee, at the urging of Supervisors Hansohn and Alexa Fritz, decided that the billing issue was of such great importance that a special summit needed to be held to deal with it.

“And every company, whether they have a rescue unit or not, should be involved,” Fritz said.

Culpeper and Rapidan fire departments do not have rescue units.

No date was set for the pay-for-service summit.

Donnie Johnston: