Fund the volunteers

Published 7:44 pm Wednesday, April 19, 2017

There are several reasons why we think the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors should fund the request for an annual rolling appropriation of $200,000 for the four volunteer fire departments in the county.

As we explain these reasons, keep in mind that Buckingham doesn’t have four fire departments. It has four volunteer fire departments, meaning not one person who responds to a burning house in the middle of the night, to a vehicle crash on the highway in pouring down rain or to a tree that’s fallen across an elderly couple’s house in the middle of a fierce storm receives one penny of payment for their time, energy and work they put into serving their community while away from their families during supper time or missing needed sleep before waking up at 5 a.m. to go to work.

Costs and expenses have risen over the past several years for everyone — including volunteer fire departments, which must have the working and up-to-date equipment to serve the community. This includes vehicles, evidenced by able volunteer Tim Farrar, who serves as assistant chief of the Dillwyn Volunteer Fire Department.

“We currently run a 1997 Freightliner KME pumper. It is 20 years old this year. It is draining us maintenance-wise,” Farrar told supervisors. “On average, (it costs) $350,000 to buy a new pumper that has no equipment on it … We just can’t do it without some extra support.”

The need is clear, evidenced by Farrar and fellow volunteers Betty Shapiro, Tommy Joe Steger, Dr. Brian Bates, Chris Davis and others.

“We desperately need your assistance,” Farrar said.

“If you want to ensure the longevity of your fire service in Buckingham County, please provide the funding that was asked and not just a one-time deal. These expenses continue to go up every year … This will get us to where we need to start,” Davis said.

The county has the money to fund the request without raising taxes. That’s a fact.

In their proposed budget, supervisors have a reserve for contingency that totals $540,427. This money is unallocated and is in place for unforeseen expenses that could come down the pike. It’s the most appropriate place for the rolling appropriation to come from, we think.

A county’s operating budget is the primary source for its citizens to learn where supervisors’ priorities are for any given fiscal year.

We think supervisors should make it a priority to support the volunteers and fund this request.