Here is a letter to the editor from the Fire chief and several members of the Fincastle Volunteer Fire Department received this morning Jan.. 22, 2013:
As officers of a key Volunteer Fire Departments (established 1947) in Botetourt County, we find it necessary to endeavor to inform the citizens of the county that the Botetourt County Administration has allowed an unbelievably abrasive and corrosive atmosphere to develop, in less than a year’s time, in the world of Botetourt County Emergency Services—fire and rescue. The situation, which has enormous cost implications, has been kept from the taxpayers, and, we believe, from a majority of the Board of Supervisors, for far too long.
We apologize for having waited so long, and we do so now with reluctance and heavy hearts. We have encountered evasion, denials, quibbling, and runarounds, followed by promises, with no evidence yet of any change in course, attitude, or policy: The Botetourt County Administration has allowed its Department of Emergency Services to embark on a course of action having the single goal of destroying Volunteer Emergency Services in the county.
In fact, one manager in the Botetourt County Administration, has preached loudly and repeatedly, often in public places, about his apparently looked-for goal: “…once our Volunteer friends are gone.”
The tipping-point has been reached during the current budget planning for Fiscal Year 2013-14. The County Administration has allowed its Department of Emergency Services to change budget preparation protocols and the format for monthly reports of expenditures in ways whose primary result will be to spread a cloak of concealment over the enormity of the ballooning total cost of the career-side of Botetourt County Emergency Services. The budget-planning manipulations bury significant cost areas of career-staff operations deep in the operating budgets of the volunteer organizations. Then, the changes in the format of the monthly spending reports continue the concealment by making discovery of the deception more difficult—even by the Board of Supervisors.
Botetourt’s longtime, loyal, volunteer leaders and members have been subjected to inappropriate, condescending, and insulting verbal abuse from Department of Emergency Services management. We have chosen to ignore, as best we can, the juvenile bullying of schoolyard snubbing in our own facilities and at fire scenes. Volunteer leaders who have dared attempt to question or (at least) to discuss any idea that originates at the Department of Emergency Services management level almost immediately suddenly find that their telephone calls are neither accepted nor returned. We cannot ignore that we are being treated as outsiders and intruders in our own buildings, and threatened with chessboard swap-games involving our own equipment.
Ten years or so ago, the Botetourt County Board of Supervisors wisely created the Fire and Rescue Steering Team (FARST) with a mission of needs-assessment, long-range planning, and assuring that the views of all involved parties were heard and addressed. It was amazingly successful. FARST helped create an atmosphere of understanding and cooperation that enabled Botetourt to navigate the creation of a combination career/volunteer operation without major turmoil or difficulties. Suddenly, FARST has disappeared. We don’t know if it’s dead, or missing, or just being held prisoner.
Individual members of the Board of Supervisors have told us that Botetourt County cannot afford to alienate its Volunteers. “The money for an all-career operation just IS NOT THERE,” they say. If that is the case, just what is going on here?
All indications are that, indeed, the money just is not there. If the essentiality of the Volunteers continues, that needs to be said. Again. Loud and clear, and as an official statement. Maybe it will be heard, even in the offices of the Botetourt County Administration.
FINCASTLE VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT
Board of Directors Member and
Immediate Past Chief