Board Fuels Rescue Squad

Published 3:23 pm Tuesday, June 18, 2013

CUMBERLAND – Although the current board has been marked by debate regarding how to spend the County's money, they unanimously agreed to appropriate $1,717.19 in additional funds to the Cartersville Volunteer Rescue Squad to cover fuel costs during their June meeting.

The decision had been tabled from the May meeting, when the board considered a request for additional funds from the Cartersville Volunteer Rescue Squad and decided to let District Three Supervisor Kevin Ingle, the board's representative on the Emergency Services Committee, investigate the need and its causes further.

According to the original request submitted to the board, the Cartersville Volunteer Rescue Squad saw their total number of calls increase by 100 percent over the three month period of February-April.

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Also, the number of mutual aid calls responding to 911 addresses in the Cumberland Volunteer Rescue Squad's initial coverage area has more than doubled, according to a letter written by Bernard “Bernie” Becker, president of the Cartersville Volunteer Rescue Squad.

Becker later informed The Herald that his squad had also seen an increase in mutual aid calls for Buckingham County over the past month.

According to the request, less than half of the calls received by the Cartersville Volunteer Rescue Squad were in the Cartersville initial coverage area. Over 48 percent were mutual aid calls for the Cumberland Volunteer Rescue Squad.

The letter concluded, “Members of the Cartersville Volunteer Rescue Squad take pride in striving to answer calls from anywhere in the Cumberland area but need financial assistance for diesel fuel in order to continue service.”

Becker also addressed the board during the first public comments portion of the June meeting, adding that since the letter was submitted last month 65 percent of the squad's calls were mutual aid calls to Cumberland Volunteer Rescue Squad and Buckingham.

The amount requested from the board included the funds needed to cover the Cartersville Volunteer Rescue Squad's current budget deficit for fuel, as well as the projected amount needed to finish the fiscal year, according to Becker.

Becker pointed to the fluctuations in the cost of fuel as another reason for the needed appropriation.

He stated that 18 months ago when the squad's budget was drafted, “we knew that the price attached to diesel fuel was like nailing Jell-O to the wall…It was just an impossible prediction to make.

“Our worse prospects came true. Our funds that were allocated for diesel fuel ran out in…February,” he concluded.

Ingle began the discussion of the request during the June meeting by reporting that he had spoken with both the Cartersville and Cumberland rescue squads to gain a better understanding of the situation.

“I think it's in the best interest of Cumberland County, along with Cartersville Rescue Squad, to go ahead and appropriate the additional funding for fuel for $1,717.19,” Ingle recommended.

He continued, “They're running an extensive amount of mutual aid into other areas. Last thing we want them to feel is penalized or short-changed. We do realize that mutual aid is one of the best things that neighboring localities or counties can share. Everybody is out there to do the same thing. That's to help people out.

“So, in observance of Cartersville Rescue Squad's true intention to serve Cartersville and Cumberland County, I would like to see that appropriation made,” he concluded, making a motion to that effect.

Upon questioning from Supervisor Parker Wheeler, District Five, Ingle clarified that the appropriation amount would be in addition to funds already given to the squad and would not be taken from the Cumberland Volunteer Rescue Squad.

“My question is, if we are going to add money, and I don't have a reluctance to do so, but where are we taking it away?” Supervisor Lloyd Banks, District Two, asked.

County Administrator and Attorney Vivian Giles responded that the amount was relatively small and she was confident it could be found in the budget.

Supervisor Bill Osl, District One, also asked how much surplus the County had in the current year's budget, while Ingle pointed out that the County has additional funds due to a trailer sale.

“We are running ahead. That is over and above the budget, so those aren't funds that have been appropriated already,” Giles confirmed.

“I think this is a modest amount of County resources. I think we can find $1,700. I think the larger issue is, is what the posture of the board is going to be. As we find out expenses, as we see things that come up unexpected, are we going to posture ourselves to be frugal and practical and reduce somewhere else?” Banks asked.

“I like to live within our budget,” Osl said, “and I think that's appropriate… Our revenues are ahead and our expenditures are below. So we're running a significant surplus so far this year.”

Banks responded, pointing out the County's current debt, adding that he thought the community would want the board to put any surplus toward that debt and not spend it elsewhere.

The two debated the budget, until Chairman David Meinhard, District Four, interrupted, changing the subject.

“Are we doing anything with this to resolve the problem? The problem being that we've got a squad that's functioning that is not meeting its purpose. The thought ran through my mind on it that Cartersville send Cumberland Rescue Squad a bill for the diesel fuel they are using on calls up here,” said Meinhard.

Later, in a conversation with The Herald, Ingle explained that he believes this is only a short-term problem. Currently, several members of the Cumberland Volunteer Rescue Squad are affected by physical ailments, he said, but the issue should be resolved soon.

He pointed out that, for now, the Cartersville Volunteer Rescue Squad is carrying quite a burden and he was thankful for their willingness to serve the entire county as needed.