To the Botetourt View:
The turmoil of the moment involving Botetourt County Emergency Services (BCES) and its challenges in effectively managing and preserving both career and volunteer staffing should not surprise anybody—unless it is someone who either has no institutional or community memory, or chooses to turn a back and a blind eye to whatever institutional memory exists and the community services that are available.
The current mess is new, but Botetourt County had been dealing with matters very well, thank you, for the past ten years or so. That’s how long Botetourt County has been employing career emergency medics and firefighters. The most significant factor in the near-decade of “peace in the valley” was the presence of an entity called the Fire and Rescue Steering Team (FARST).
FARST was wisely created by a Board of Supervisors that tasked it with assuring that the concerns of all stakeholders were brought to the table and considered, with the overall objective of providing the citizens with the best possible service at the lowest possible cost. To that end, FARST membership included representatives of rescue squads, volunteer fire departments, Botetourt County administration, and the Board of Supervisors. For the most part, it was very successful. It has not been seen or heard from in at least a year.
That is most unfortunate. It is equally unfortunate that, while FARST was being allowed to fade away and disappear, the dismaying actions of one individual in one volunteer organization somehow were allowed to become the face of volunteerism in Botetourt. Botetourt County volunteer fire and rescue services have proven to be truly professional, dedicated individuals. They should not be stereotyped with the issues created by one bad apple.
It is difficult to imagine an acceptable rationale for pushing FARST aside, unused, at a point in time when sharper elbows and more aggressive conflicts of opinion and interests were arising. Without FARST, resolution of inter-element conflicts fell to a unilateral administrative level that, frequently was the cause of, or had a vested interest in, the problem at hand.
FARST needs to be revived and returned to duty. There was nothing wrong with it. It warn’t broke. If a little face-saving tinkering is required, the only thing FARST needs is the addition of two citizen representatives. After all, they’re paying the bill, and the bill is ballooning.
As a newly elected member of the Town Council of Troutville, I feel it is my duty to support our emergency services personnel, and to be fiscally mindful of our governing responsibilities at all levels.
Dean Paderick, Life Member and Former Chief
Troutville Volunteer Fire Department