Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.
Candidates weigh in on Fire and Rescue
View the Spotsylvania Election Guide.
Today’s question for the Spotsy supervisor candidates: Should Spotsylvania have county-wide 24/7 fire and rescue coverage? If so, how would you fund it?
Raymond Bell, Livingston
Absolutely. Most localities consider it a fundamental service expected of local government. We have to step up and invest in our public safety to achieve 24/7 emergency coverage; and there are any number of ways to make it happen. The easiest, and least popular, would be to raise taxes; which I do not believe is even necessary. We can tie new economic development and a percentage of associated new revenues to our public safety priorities. We can can step up applications for state and federal grants and we can pursue new and innovative public/private partnerships to help us meet this challenge. We have options, what we need are supervisors willing to take the necessary action and make it happen. I’m that candidate in Livingston.
Don Holmes, Salem
Fire and rescue have been serving the Spotsylvania Community for over 50 years. As in every community, one of the most important roles of government is to provide safety and security to its citizens–and we are no different. 24/7 emergency services are required for our community and I believe we can still achieve this through our combined full time and volunteer force. In order to achieve the adequate services we need to support our volunteers and build their esprit -de-corps. We must strive to recruit the best qualified people to fill our fire and EMS ranks, we must provide them with the best available training that supports the community requirements, we must ensure that they are equipped with the most advanced tools available to accomplish their mission and hold the entire organization accountable to a zero tolerance misconduct standard. We fund this organization today and only minimal cost growth should be expected while continuing to train and equip the force. The VFD’s need an advocate on the board and I will be there for them not just in words but action.
Some stations are going dark during some hours of the nights or weekends because of a drop in recruitment among volunteers. When the Board considered the county’s funding of recruitment the discussion seemed to take place in a vacuum, ignoring the elephant in the room known as 18 months of bad publicity for the volunteers. The recruitment effort did not fail. It was merely moving against too great a headwind. I think we should put more money, not less, into recruitment of volunteers. Assuming we have removed the bad apples from among the volunteers and the new training requirements (which I fully support) help prevent another avoidable tragedy, the bad publicity is at an end and recruitment should bounce back.
Therefore yes, I want to see 24/7 coverage at all stations but I want to do it by recruiting more volunteers. Instead of the millions of dollars it would take to staff all of our stations with full-time firefighters 24/7, I believe it would only take a few thousand additional dollars for volunteer recruitment, which is easily findable in the current budget.