Squad gets additional funds

Published 4:05 pm Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Cumberland County Board of Supervisors agreed to appropriate $25,000 last week to the Cumberland Volunteer Rescue Squad, another in a series of appropriations made by the board to aid the organization.

The action comes during a period when all three of the agency’s rescue squad vehicles are broken down or needing repairs.

“It is my proposal tonight to do an emergency appropriation in the amount of $25,000 to Cumberland (Volunteer) Rescue Squad to be able to keep the doors open with the hopes that there’s going to be a bright future,” said District Three Supervisor Kevin Ingle, who also serves as the county’s emergency management director.

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Ingle also gave an update on some of the struggles the squad is facing.

“They are still working with Revenue Recovery that’s out of Kentucky,” he said. “It’s a new company that actually bought out or took over the company that they were getting revenue recovery billing done in the past. It’s been a little bit slow as far as their revenue recovery since they have gone with this new company. They’re needing help right now to be able to pay for insurance since they got a bill the other day for $9,000 for a portion of their yearly insurance and regular operating costs and repairs.”

The agency has brought in a company, Emergency Staffing Solutions (ESS), which provides paid medical staff for 10 hours a day, Monday through Friday.

During the time periods that the squad relies upon volunteers, it is benefitting, lately, from some additional manpower.

“We’ve got at least three new people, maybe four, and we’re just trying to bring them in,” said Cumberland Volunteer Rescue Squad President Dr. R.K. Elswick. “It’s definitely taking an uptick. We’re enjoying the prospect of having some more help. Still, it’s not enough. … We could definitely use more.”

Ingle noted that the Cartersville Volunteer Rescue Squad has been excellent in working with the Cumberland squad, sharing coverage times and sharing crews to be able to give people the coverage they have.

“But they do run a lot of calls between the two agencies, so we’re going to have to be looking at what it’s going to take to offer the citizens the coverage that they need until any type of rebuilding phase can be brought in,” Ingle said.

District Two Supervisor and Board Chairman Lloyd Banks questioned if repeated appropriations are the best way to help in the long run.

Lloyd Banks

Lloyd Banks

“My concern is we’re equipping vehicles and personnel in multiple locations, and then they’re not able to provide the service, and this appropriation that is on the table today is the same appropriation or similar that we’ve been getting every few months. … And I see the difficulty is what’s their real need?” Banks said. “What do they need to do in order to be whole? And instead of looking at it from a comprehensive fire and rescue plan, we just keep almost throwing money at the rescue squad. And that’s not to pick on the rescue squad, but at what point do we consolidate fire and rescue or consolidate these rescue (organizations), between Cumberland, Cartersville, between fire departments? How do we control the cost?”

In addition to insurance, Elswick said the latest $25,000 appropriation will go to pay ESS and to fix vehicles.

“Right now we have three ambulances, and all three of them are needing substantial repairs,” he said. “In fact, none of them are operable right now. We’re actually borrowing a unit from Cartersville so we can run calls.”

The latest appropriation will help pay operational costs incurred by the need for diesel fuel, propane to heat the building, electricity to cool the building and money to properly outfit the rescue squad unit with medical equipment.

“We look at every expense that we pay out, and we’re asking ourselves, ‘Do we really need that?’” Elswick said. “Because we need to drive the operation costs down at the same time we’re trying to maximize our revenue recovery so we can be as self-sufficient as possible.”

About 10 years ago, a mortgage was taken out on the squad’s building to purchase new ambulances. Elswick said through various fundraising methods, the squad has been able to reduce the mortgage from $84,000 to $67,000.

“If we get rid of that mortgage, we could save ourselves around $800 a month in operation costs,” he said.