Volatility continues in the volunteer ranks of Botetourt EMS.
On the night prior to the meeting with County officials, three members, David Bush, Garry Taylor and Terry Shadowski of the Fincastle Rescue Squad had questions and answers. First of all though reported as so, Capt. David Bush did not resign from the squad. The squad did not accept his oral resignation. Later in the conversation, he said, “They are like my family and you don’t walk out on your family.”
They are concerned as a group about the non returned phone calls from two very important people. County Administrator Kathleen Guzi and EMS Director Carr Boyd. Guzi became county administrator in late March of 2012. Boyd came aboard in June of 2012.
Said Bush simply, “This has become a dictatorship. We love the paid staff here who cover five days a week from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. We cover 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. and on weekends. This isn’t Charlotte or Richmond though.” One significant issue is their lack of use of a newer model Blue and Gold response truck called 458. They have a truck 457 that needs to be replaced that has 132,000 plus miles on it while 457 only has 13,000 miles. They use it to sit at events like churches, girl scouts or football games. Stubborn? Likely, but the fear is it will not be replaced and if so it will be a hand me down green squad vehicle from paid staff use– a vehicle that meeting discussion said can be unreliable.
They had been in the running for a replacement, but the grant fell through after they were told they would receive it said Bush.
Boyd said at the March 5th meeting with the FVRS, that the break down for two years in November 2010-012 was the following: Fincastle had 446 billable call transfers. $338,000 billed $178,000 in recovery in Fincastle alone in 2 years. They answered the largest amount of calls of any volunteer squad. The career staff had 1.3 million in recovery in 2 years. Taylor of FVRS said, “If we could get 15% of of what we do per year for 8 years we could replace trucks without having to ask for it.” The county gave Fincastle $45, 007 in 2012-13 for operations. The rest of operations is funded by the volunteer squad’s efforts.
Guzi who appeared flustered at times said, “We need volunteers. It can be fought out in the newspaper or we can work together.” She continued, “The realities have changed over the last five years. We have challenging circumstances, it is not me or Carr Boyd.”
Terry Austin who has been a past champion of FARST and is proud of paid staff as well especially in Buchanan where he represents said, “We can compensate you, but it won’t create more volunteers. We are in tough economic times in the county. We have many things to fund.”
FVRS president Jayson Parr let them membership air concerns. Several years ago the Fincastle volunteers refused to paint their squads green like everyone else. Notable was Jessica Hensley’s comment. A former Buchanan volunteer and one of eight young people who volunteer in Fincastle, she noted after the discussion of green paint on ambulances. “It is apparent to me since we were the only volunteer squad to resist the green paint, it is significant that we are the only volunteer squad left answering a large amount of calls.”
Suzan Keith spoke to volunteer identity. “I am a volunteer. I don’t want to be seen as a career staff. I think a citizen should know we are volunteers.”
Fincastle Supervisor Jack Leffel became the voice of reason “The points just brought up are good points. I want you volunteer people to know the community is getting behind you. I had a call about Fincastle Volunteer Rescue that asked, “Why doesn’t the county value the volunteers?” Another said, “I thought everyone is paid now.” Green and Gold is not a community identity for Fincastle. If that blue and gold is their identity or psychedelic colors if that’s what you want, it is your community. Fincastle citizens donate to their Rescue Squad. I believe the County needs to do everything they can to I encourage volunteers. We need a plan to recruit and keep volunteers and keep them happy.
Leffel continued, “We have to get the message across to the public. Why do you have volunteers here in Fincastle? You have leadership. We have to make this work and it has to be both career and volunteer. Every one has to be on the same page and make it happen because we can’t afford not to do it.”