Squad will merge with Victoria

Published 12:43 pm Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Tensions were high when the Lunenburg County Board of Supervisors held a public meeting at the Kenbridge Emergency Squad (KES) for a round-table discussion about the future of the squad Thursday.

After an hour-and-a-half-long discussion, supervisors voted 4-2 to merge KES with Victoria Fire and Rescue.

Officials say KES has been struggling to answer calls due to lack of funds and volunteers — factors that led to the merger.

The active members of the KES in attendance included Woody Conner, Glenda Conner, Chris Craft, Vicki Smith, Connie Moore and Bernice Thompson.

District 1 Supervisor T. Wayne Hoover opened the discussion, giving the history of the on-going discussions and explaining the options, including hiring new employees, hiring a

private contractor to assist with calls, merging with Kenbridge Fire Department (KFD) or merging with Victoria. It was quickly determined, according to Hoover, that the cost was too high to hire new employees, and private contractors require more calls than the KES responds to.

The two remaining options were opened for discussion: merge with the Kenbridge Fire Department or Victoria Fire and Rescue — both of which had agreed to accept KES.

Officials said if KES merged with KFD, the operations would be out of one station; if KES merged with Victoria, the operation would be run out of both the Victoria and Kenbridge Emergency Squad facilities.

The floor was opened first to the active members of the KES.

“As all of you know we have been struggling for a long time,” said Conner, the chairman of KES. “We have asked for help from entities here in town and have not received them. Victoria has been there for us every time we have asked for help or every time we have needed help.”

Thompson added Victoria was able to provide continued training for KES members and volunteers.

“With Victoria being an EMS agency, we’re going to continue to get our training through them,” Thompson said. “No one with Kenbridge Fire Department is (an) authorized ‘teacher’ to give us our training.”

Craft added personal issues as another reason a merge with KFD would not work well.

“We have done everything we can in the last three years, we’ve written our bylaws trying to make it a little easier because there’s a lot of personal conflict — people that just can’t play nice in the sandbox with others …,” Craft said. “I think the big picture is we’re here for the citizens of the county and we need to do what’s best for them. We need a long-term fix, not a short-term fix; that way, we don’t have to have this conversation again.”

After comments were heard from the KES members, citizens of the community — quite a few of whom were KFD members — were given the opportunity to speak. The tone and tension in the room began to rise as members of the community vouched for both sides.

“Somebody at the table said ‘My concern is we can’t play together in the sandbox,’” Wanda Morrison said. “With that said, my concern is if you merge with Kenbridge Fire and this bickering and concern is already there, what happens when you get that call? If we can’t play now, I don’t know that we’re going to play in an emergency.”

Kenbridge Mayor and KVD Second Assistant Chief Emory Hodges responded to Morrison’s comment.

“There’s a reason why the Kenbridge Rescue Squad is not successful and there’s a reason why the Kenbridge Fire Department is so successful; it’s a people issue, the people don’t get along,” Hodges said. “And honestly, I don’t think anybody sitting at the table from the emergency squad really likes me or they don’t like the fire chief. I don’t think the fire department or any of these guys here tonight that are members of the fire department that were former members of the emergency squad has set out to say ‘We want to make enemies out of these six people sitting at the table tonight.’”

Other issues, such as the distance from Victoria to the edge of Kenbridge, along with financial issues were brought up as more comments were offered.

Supervisors and the KES members then discussed with each other the options on the table and the possible outcomes of each.

Immediately before the vote, District 5 Supervisor Edward Pennington spoke.

“I think it is a shame before God that we have such a difference and we are not able to work together as a people,” Pennington said. “This is in-house. You have Kenbridge Fire Department and Kenbridge Rescue Squad and you are separating, and I think that’s pretty sad when you do things like that. You should be able to pull together and work together and work through this thing and swallow your pride. All of you should swallow your pride and be able to come together and work together.”

District 7 Supervisor Robert Zava, Hoover, Chairman Charles R. Slayton and District 3 Supervisor Frank Bacon voted for the merge with Victoria, while Pennington and District 6 Supervisor Alvester Edmonds voted in opposition.

Emory Hodges

Emory Hodges