Answering the rescue squad’s call

Published 12:54 pm Thursday, December 13, 2018

Representatives of the Farmville Town Council, the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors, Longwood University and Hampden-Sydney College gathered Wednesday for a special meeting at the Town Hall to learn about the needs of the Prince Edward Volunteer Rescue Squad, Inc. (PEVRS), which are substantial.

“I don’t like surprises, and I don’t like secrets,” PEVRS President Nat Carter said at the beginning of the meeting. “Today is about some short-term and long-term needs that the rescue squad has and we’re not able to meet on our own. So we’re here to talk about a sustainable level of funding. Hopefully today will just be the beginning of a conversation.”

Carter and PEVRS Treasurer Carol Broadwater spoke passionately about the challenges facing the squad and the need for an influx of business expertise and guidance to help sustain it.

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During his presentation, Carter noted that the rescue squad has been operating at a loss, financially, since 2014. Net income has been out of the red since 2017, but after other costs, not expensed, like equipment, capital expenditures, vehicle costs, building modifications, etc., the income totals have still been left in the negative numbers.

After other costs, not expensed, the PEVRS income was -$48,575.92 in 2014, -$78,673.21 in 2015, -$109,182.89 in 2016, -$4,995.56 in 2017 and -$79,032.30 in 2018.

Later in the presentation, Carter highlighted how the rescue squad had responded to 3,424 calls in 2017, 73 percent of which required transport. The squad has responded to 3,252 calls so far this year, with 71 percent of them requiring transport.

These statistics underscore the importance of reliable transportation for PEVRS. Broadwater noted how the rescue squad’s fleet of vehicles features 2010 ambulances that were rechassied in 2011 and 2012, and they are constantly in need of maintenance and repair.

An ambulance projected to be bought to replace one current unit in 2019 would cost $232,000.

At the end of his presentation, Carter cited two key projected PEVRS needs for 2019 and beyond, among others. First, the squad needs to purchase and replace four ambulances, one in 2019 and one each year afterwards, with projected replacement every 3-5 years after purchase. This will help the organization avoid its current situation of having an aging fleet.

Second, PEVRS needs funds and a plan for hiring of an executive director to run all day-to-day operations and to oversee the agency. The expected salary for this individual would be $65,000-plus, including benefits and insurance.

Carter opened up the floor to questions after the presentation, during which Broadwater also helped provide insight into the rescue squad’s status.

“We need more expertise,” she said. “We are very open to restructuring the agency. We’re run by an executive board the way they set it up 50 years ago when it was a volunteer agency, so expertise from other business folks would be a huge asset to our organization.”

Broadwater said she begged every person on the squad’s executive board to stay on so the organization could restructure.

Because of a decline in volunteerism — possibly spurred on by the significant required EMT training time of 160-180 hours — PEVRS is facing a shortage of manpower. It needs to be able to offer good compensation to hire qualified personnel.

Longwood President W. Taylor Reveley IV, who was on hand for the meeting, asked Carter that if the rescue squad leadership were waving the proverbial magic wand, what does it want the future to look like for itself?

“If we could have our vehicles provided for us, we could probably hire the personnel we need, the expertise that we need from billing and our other fundraising,” he said, and still be able to make payments on the squad’s building and on its loan with the county.

Broadwater emphasized the strain the squad’s current situation has put on the few people running it.

“I knew that we had to have this meeting with the county, because I’m going to be frank — I’m over at that squad between two and five hours every single day running the place, and I can’t,” she said. “I’ve got good help at my own business that is allowing me to do this, but it’s been very difficult.”

She later repeated that PEVRS is very open to restructuring.

At-Large Councilman Thomas M. Pairet said, “That’s the only way you’re going to survive. You’re not going to survive the way you’re operating right now.”

Farmville Mayor David Whitus, who called the special meeting, asserted a resolve that something would be done to help the rescue squad find a way forward.

“I say all the time, as does President Reveley, that this is a unique community,” he said. “We have unique qualities that other communities don’t have, and I think the people that are in this room, the four entities — Longwood, Hampden-Sydney, the county and the town — are in a unique position to reach out and help the rescue squad and make this work.”

Reveley spoke up in agreement and issued “a profound word of thanks” to those involved with PEVRS.

It was agreed that each of the four institutions represented at the meeting, the two government bodies and the two colleges, would send representatives to the January meeting of the rescue squad’s executive committee.

The Farmville Town Council’s representative will be Ward A Councilman Greg Cole, the Prince Edward Board of Supervisors’ representative will be Prospect District Supervisor J. David Emert, Ken Copeland will represent Hampden-Sydney, and Reveley will pick someone to represent Longwood in the coming days.

Whitus said these four representatives will help give PEVRS ideas of what it can do, and “then we’ll see where we go from there.”

After Wednesday’s special meeting, Carter expressed optimism.

“I think it was an exciting step forward,” he said.