It wasn’t all work and no play – the County Board and staff were treated to some seasonal serenading by the E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School Chorus to kick off the final 2017 meeting. Photos/Roger Bianchini
Following county administration’s explanation of funding limitations at the December 12 board of supervisors meeting, Warren County Fire & Rescue didn’t get what it wanted in the way of career staffing at two volunteer departments, but did get what it can live with – at least for awhile.
“We understand,” Fire & Rescue Chief Richard Mabie told the county supervisors following the unanimous vote to approve Option 2, rather than his department’s preferred Option 1 funding.
Asked later about the compromise, Mabie told Royal Examiner, “I’m fine for now with this compromise. I feel we can cover Station 2’s area better than we can cover Station 3’s area. And we will still put part time staffing at Station 2 when available and funds permit.”
The preferred option would continue existing staffing at Shenandoah Farms Company 6 through the current fiscal year (FY 2018) and add two firefighter-EMT’s at South Warren Company 3 to provide 24×7 coverage. The county is facing the loss of Virginia Department of Transportation funding assistance at Company 6 once the Morgan’s Ford low-water bridge is opened. Conversation at Tuesday’s meeting indicated that opening could come as early as January, if not by the end of the year as had been hoped – at least from a transportation perspective.
Total estimated cost of that preferred option to provide staffing for the two companies through June 30, 2018 (the end of FY 2018) is $195,000 – $130,000 for one year’s staffing at Farms Company 6 (that money is set aside in the current budget); and $65,000 for the additional South Warren staffing through the balance of the fiscal year. To carry this option’s staffing forward beyond FY 2018, the estimated annual cost is $390,000, $260,000 of which is thus far unbudgeted.
The compromise Option 2 approved transfers two career positions at Rivermont Company 2, to South Warren Company 3 until the new Rivermont fire station is completed (estimated summer of 2019). That eliminates the $65,000 new position funding for the remaining half of FY 2018. Past work session discussion has pointed to Company 2 covering some South Warren calls when Company 3 has its staffing gaps. So essentially, the compromise will continue an existing situation of cross coverage with the relocation of the two Company 2 personnel physically to the South Warren Station House.
Fire & Rescue Chief Richard Mabie explained staffing variables, as well as the need for a lease on new emergency equipment to be signed ASAP – you know what ‘they’ say, ‘Two out of three ain’t bad.’
“I wish we could do better but we’ll do our best,” Happy Creek Supervisor Tony Carter commented.
“We’d all like to do more,” Board Chair and South Warren Supervisor Linda Glavis added, drawing Chief Mabie’s “We understand” comment on dealing with funding limitations in the existing county budget.
The county is looking at almost a penny of real estate tax revenue (currently about $404,000) to cover the total $390,000 cost of the preferred option forward beyond FY 2018, after the new Rivermont Company 2 station opens.
Following the staffing funding vote, the supervisors approved what Chief Mabie called “almost an emergency request” regarding emergency lifesaving and other equipment upgrades. The request to upgrade equipment in department ambulances and other staff vehicles was added to the Monday agenda due to time limitations on signing a lease agreement for the equipment prior to the end of the year. Also, Mabie explained that the department has found out that a FEMA grant application to fund purchase of the new equipment had been rejected.
After December 27, the $91,615 (and 52 cent) annual leasing price of the equipment will go up by $81,866, Mabie told the board. A 2-for-1 trade in on old equipment will also expire if a leasing agreement is not signed in the next 15 days. Chief Mabie also noted that the old equipment, including defibrillators, was no longer being maintenanced by the manufacturer as of October of this year.
One might say the county was made an offer it couldn’t refuse – and it didn’t. The supervisors unanimously approved signing of the lease agreement with Physio-Control of Redmond, Washington.
Also on December 12, at the recommendation of County Attorney Dan Whitten the supervisors unanimously approved a public hearing on renewal of the county’s franchise agreement with Comcast Cable. That public hearing appears to be scheduled for January 16. Whitten said he believed the public should be given a chance to chime in since the renewal will have a 15-year lifespan, with automatic renewals every five years unless one party notifies the other of its intent not to renew “at least three years before the renewal date.”
Currently the county and Comcast are approaching the end of a five-year extension of its original 10-year franchise agreement with Comcast, signed in 2003.
Among terms of the new agreement are:
- continuation of a “non-exclusive franchise agreement throughout the county”;
- a 15-year term with the same automatic five-year renewals without three year’s advance notice of an intention not to renew;
- system will be underground unless all utilities in a service area are underground;
- service to areas of the county with 30 residential units per mile with aerial cable, or 60 residential units per mile with underground cable (within one mile of the cable system truck or feeder line). Homes are only counted if they are within 150 feet of the public right of way;
- within 180 days of receiving easements and authorizations, Comcast will extend its system along public right of ways “in areas of Benny’s Beach and Apple Mountain Lake South;
- allowance of up to three governmental/educational channels – the County currently has one channel and others will be allowed “once there is at least 8 hours per day of non-repetitive programming”;
- provision of one free outlet by Comcast to each public school, fire station, police station, library and other buildings owned by the County or School Board and used for governmental or educational purposes;
- Comcast will post a $50,000 performance bond and there will be an opportunity to correct or appeal non-performance;
- Payment by Comcast of from $50 to $100 per day for specific failures or delays; and of $500 per quarter for failure to meet federal customer service standards.
Following a Closed Session, the supervisors made the following appointments or reappointments by unanimous votes:
- David Feiring to the Board of Zoning Appeals’
- John Vance to the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission;
- Lorraine Brandon to the Social Services Advisory Board;
- Robert Myers and Hugh Henry to the county planning commission.
Tuesday’s, December 12 meeting was the supervisors last of 2017.
Starting with School Board Chair Cathy Bower, winners in the November election were sworn in for the coming term by Judge Ronald Napier. Below, pictured with Bower are the Fork’s Archie Fox, left, and Happy Creek Supervisor Tony Carter.