Emergency services funding approved

Published 3:58 pm Wednesday, April 13, 2016

At Tuesday afternoon’s meeting of the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors, a one-time appropriation was approved for $90,000 to aid local fire and rescue efforts in the county.

The action follows requests from local volunteers made during the board’s April 5 special called meeting to address requested funding for emergency services organizations.

“It’s been 26 years since it has been looked into,” said Phenix Fire Chief and Rescue Squad member Walter Bailey.

He said the majority of the burden to operate the local fire and rescue organizations falls on the volunteers. “We’re performing a lot of community service for our county,” Bailey said.

Local emergency services organizations asked the board for the one-time appropriation this year to aid the various departments, he said.

The requests included $50,000 to help with rescue squad, $5,000 per fire department in the county and $2,500 each

for Drakes Branch and Charlotte Court House fire departments.

Bailey said the additional $2,500 would aid the two departments in first-response activities conducted throughout the county.

“As great as the squad is, it’s the time frame,” said Drakes Branch Fire Chief Kenny Tharpe.

He said the first response team recently revived an individual before the squad arrived and will be featured in Centra’s magazine.

“As long as we can keep doing, we’re going to do it,” Tharpe said.

Bailey said there are five operating ambulances in the county that need to be replaced every other year. He said the cost to replace an ambulance is approximately $200,000.

In addition, fire vehicles require a replacement every 6-7 years at an estimated cost of $350,000.

While Bailey said the departments depend on fundraisers for everyday expenses, the cost to operate further exceeds the amount that can be raised through basic fundraising efforts.

He said he has seen an increase in rules and regulations from state and federal governments pertaining to equipment and training regulations. “We’ve got to meet rigid federal standards,” Bailey said.

He said the federal government requires turnout gear for fire departments to be replaced every 10 years at an estimated $4,500 per outfit.

The number of volunteers across the country is down by 70 percent, affecting Charlotte County as well, he said.

Bill Mayhew, captain of the Charlotte County Rescue Squad, said call volume has increased. “It’s not slowing down any,” he said.

Mayhew said the rescue squad has also faced challenges with certain supplies no longer being provided by the hospital.