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KENBRIDGE – Kenbridge Emergency Squad (KES) has been struggling to answer calls recently and with membership not increasing and with inspections upcoming, the Lunenburg County Board of Supervisors heard options on what should be done to provide emergency services to the Kenbridge area at their meeting last Thursday.
KES is facing an inspection this month and is looking to merge with another organization in order to help answer calls in the Kenbridge area. While KES is a separate organization and is not run by county officials, the Lunenburg Board of Supervisors is responsible to designate who responds to emergency calls in different parts of the county.
County Administrator Tracy Gee said that there have been numerous meetings regarding this issue of answering calls and several options were discussed. One option is for the county to pay a provider to come in and answer EMS calls, but Mrs. Gee stated, “The cost to bring someone in to do this is way out of the realm of possibility.”
Another option was to have KES merge with Kenbridge Fire Department (KFD) and form one organization similar to what already exists in Victoria. KFD members met and voted to pursue this merger and apply for an emergency medical license that would likely take around five or six months to obtain.
However, KES members were approached with this option and indicated that they would not merge with KFD. Instead, the Kenbridge Emergency Squad members asked that they be allowed to merge with Victoria Fire and Rescue. Victoria Fire and Rescue has several members that have been working with and for KES over the last year. The KES members indicated that they had been working with Victoria Fire Rescue members and Chief Rodney Newton so they would rather make that merger.
Victoria Fire and Rescue members also met about this possibility and agreed to take over the operations and equipment of KES and run calls for that area of the county out of the current KES building if a merger took place.
Kenbridge Mayor Emory Hodges, who is also part of the Kenbridge Fire Department, was asked by Supervisor Edward Pennington, “Why would Kenbridge Emergency Squad not want to join with you all.”
Mayor Hodges stated, “It is personal.”
Kenbridge Fire Department Chief Dicky Harris said that his department had tried to extend an olive branch to KES members, but that did not work to convince them to merge the two Kenbridge area groups.
County officials do not have the authority to force KES to merge with a certain group and if the KES members do not agree to a merger with a certain group, then they would not turn over their equipment, building or vehicles. What that means is that if KFD was allowed to become the EMS provider for the Kenbridge area of the county without a merger, all equipment would need to be purchased.
On the other hand, if the county agrees to allow KES to merge with Victoria Fire and Rescue, then the group would just operate out of the current KES building, use their equipment and no additional money would be needed from the county. County Administrator Tracy Gee stated, “Kenbridge Emergency Squad is a private organization and they get to decide where their assets go.”
Mrs. Gee stated, “I know that people (in Kenbridge) have invested their time and money, but what they have invested in is not going to disappear should the merger with Victoria Fire and Rescue happen. It will all stay intact and will still be in service and all of the people who have been integral in that operation will still be there.”
Supervisor Hoover stated, “Without the forfeiture of assets it would cost the county a substantial amount of money where the current merger between the two corporations (KES and Victoria Fire and Rescue) does not cost the county any additional money other than what is already budgeted.”
For the financial reasons, the county Public Safety Committee said that they recommended that based on the current response plan, Kenbridge Emergency Squad be removed from the current response plan and Victoria Fire and Rescue take over that coverage area. The thought is that they would operate out of the KES building following a merger to run calls in that portion of the county.
Kenbridge Fire Department officials were on hand at the meeting to offer reasons why KFD should be the group that merges with KES.
Kenbridge Fire Chief Dicky Harris then addressed the board and stated, “I am one of the three remaining founders of the Kenbridge Emergency Squad that was incorporated in September 1965.”
He continued, “I was an active member for over thirty years running calls and running two separate businesses at the same time. On several occasions I ran the most calls for the year and would do the same today if I could. I am now a life member of the squad but I do not take an active part. When I separated myself from the squad it had become a hassle to attend meetings and functions with all the drama that was taking place within the squad.
Chief Harris said that he also had raised over $500,000.00 for the squad over a period of time by participating in the “Jackass Derby” each year.
He also stated, “I hope the Kenbridge Fire Department will not be held hostage in this situation as we have always tried to make every decision based on what was best for our citizens and our local government. We have taken the high road and if any outside person reviewed any of the facts, they would see that Kenbridge Fire Department has done nothing but be positive through this whole ordeal. We were asked to act on the request by the strategic planning committee and that is exactly what we did. This is a very serious matter and will have very long term affects so I also ask for people to act now. The place for the Kenbridge Emergency Squad and its assets is with the Kenbridge Fire Department.”
Kenbridge Mayor Emory Hodges stated, “The Town of Kenbridge would like to request that the Board of Supervisors oppose the current merger of KES and Victoria Fire and Rescue.”
He continued, “This has been a long time coming and I will be the first to admit that we could have done things different and that I and the KFD have made mistakes in the past regarding EMS service in our area, but none the less, now is the time to fix it once and for all.”
After hearing these comments, Supervisors decided that they would hold a meeting with KES members and discuss possible merger situations with them directly prior to making a final decision on whether to accept the Safety Commission’s recommendation. That meeting is set for this Thursday. (See related story: Kenbridge Emergency Squad set to meet)