County proposes formalizing Fire and Rescue Association

Published 10:26 pm Friday, September 7, 2018

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Organization would become advisory board similar to Planning Commission


On Thursday, Isle of Wight County’s Board of Supervisors further discussed the possibility of the county’s Fire and Rescue Association becoming a formal advisory board. The suggestion to rebrand the Association as such first came up during a joint work session between the supervisors and representatives of each of the county’s volunteer fire and rescue agencies in early August.

If the Fire and Rescue Association’s duties as an advisory board were to be formalized in writing, it would function similar to the county’s Planning Commission, and be tasked with vetting any changes to county policies impacting Isle of Wight’s volunteer first responder agencies. As such, the county’s individual fire and rescue departments would need to bring any requests for a change in county policy or funding to the Association, which would vote on the matter and issue a positive or negative recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.

“Their recommendations will ultimately come back before this board, we hold the purse strings,” said Smithfield District Supervisor Dick Grice.

Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree suggested during the initial work session that formalizing the duties of the Association in this manner could prevent future board members and county administrators from arbitrarily making changes to how it works with its volunteer agencies based on the request of one or two agencies without the consent of the Association. He added, on Thursday, that the reorganized Fire and Rescue Association would also be able to set standards for physical fitness and training for firefighters and EMS personnel that would apply to every department. Currently, standards vary from department to department.

When asked how this would differ from the responsibilities the Fire and Rescue Association currently has, Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson explained that the county has no current written policy that outlines the Association’s responsibilities or gives it the authority to make recommendations to the board on behalf of the county’s volunteer fire and EMS organizations.

According to Jeff Terwilliger, the county’s chief of emergency services, on Wednesday during a meeting of the county’s Fire and Rescue Association, the members agreed that formalizing the organization was a priority.

One remaining concern, voiced by Newport District Supervisor William McCarty, was how this would impact individual departments’ abilities to determine their own budgetary needs. He asked what would happen if six of the seven volunteer agencies, in reviewing each other’s proposed budgets, decided that the seventh didn’t really need what it was requesting.

Though the supervisors took no formal vote on the matter following the discussion, they did request that each of the county’s eight independent fire and rescue agencies, to include its paid Emergency Services staff, select a representative for the reorganized Association.

The board expects to be able to vote on formalizing the Association in November.