Facilities use feud ends

Published 1:34 pm Wednesday, September 23, 2015

By Diana McFarland

News editor

A 15-month acrimonious and dramatic stand-off came to an end Thursday when the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to accept a revised facilities use agreement and restored funding for the Windsor and Carrollton Volunteer Fire Departments.

The series of four separate actions by the Board stipulated that the county would allow the other five fire and rescue agencies to sign the revised FUA, as well as having Isle of Wight come up with a separate funding agreement by Dec. 1.

Funding was a part of the county’s original FUA, which stated that Isle of Wight could not expend funds unless appropriated by the governing body. That paragraph has been struck in the revised version. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

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“My clients are willing to close the door on the past acrimony,” said attorney Stephen Test, who represented Carrollton and Windsor on its petition for funding. Without a resolution this month, the two stations would have taken Isle of Wight to court. 

“The drama was the understatement,” said Windsor Supervisor Dee Dee Darden, who added that this stand-off came about due to lack of communication that won’t happen again in the future.

Changes to the long-contested FUA included changing the term of the agreement from 20 years to one year with five three-year renewals; as well as removing the need for a 48-hour notice and written approval by the chief of emergency services for activities outside the realm of fire and rescue, such as fundraisers.

The revised FUA also allows portions of Windsor’s 2008 memorandum of understanding with Isle of Wight and the town of Windsor to remain valid, such as grounds maintenance. 

Fundraising activities and the MOU were two of the top concerns raised by Carrollton and Windsor in response to the first facilities use agreement, which was drafted in early 2014.

“We have all learned something from this experience that will be helpful to us in the future. Mistakes have been made and trust has been lost. We, as citizens, can now begin our role in the process of restoring trust in our future leadership,” said Capt. Dale Scott with the Windsor Volunteer Fire Department.

Carrollton Volunteer Fire Department Fred Mitchell said he also agreed with Scott concerning the other five departments, which will have to sign the new agreement without having to expend the effort and expense that Carrollton and Windsor had made.

Scott and Mitchell were also critical of a recent video posted on the county’s “Voices from the Isle” which featured Isle of Wight Rescue Squad Capt. Brian Carroll, Smithfield Volunteer Fire Chief Jason Stalling and Isle of Wight Department of Emergency Services Chief Jeff Terwillger, that discussed the original facilities use agreement.

Mitchell said Windsor and Carrollton worked hard to reach a resolution to save the taxpayers money that would have been spent had the issue gone to court — while the other departments didn’t have to spend any money.

Mitchell also took issue with the agreement giving so much power to the county’s chief of emergency services.

The volunteers work for each individual station chief, not the county’s chief of emergency services, “with seven different histories and seven different mind-sets.” Mitchell said. {/mprestriction}