Check is in the mail, finally

Published 12:07 pm Wednesday, May 24, 2017

IW staff delays funds to Windsor VFD

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

The Windsor Volunteer Fire Department did not receive funding for two quarters — allegedly due to not filing volunteer activity reports.

The check arrived Monday after a discussion Thursday by the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors.

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Newport District Supervisor William McCarty, who had initially requested the reports, wanted to know why Windsor hadn’t received its money.

The reports were designed to highlight the contributions of the county’s volunteer firefighters and medics and were not to be tied to funding, McCarty said at Thursday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

McCarty said he had the emails to show the response from county staff about the volunteer reports and quarterly funding payments to Windsor.

In an email dated May 15, Administrative Professional Renee Allen Stallings with the Department of Emergency Services told Windsor Volunteer Fire Department Capt. Dale Scott that the reports were needed to process the department’s quarterly contributions. Scott was advised to talk with Emergency Services Chief Jeff Terwilliger if he had any more questions.

The Windsor Volunteer Fire Department was budgeted $122,918 for fiscal 2017, according to county budget documents.

Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree said he had inquired about the issue some time back and thought it was resolved.

Acree said volunteers not only respond to calls, they also have families and full-time jobs and running a report takes time.

Before being elected to the Board, Acree was the chief of the Carrollton Volunteer Fire Department.

Scott said the request for the reports began July 1, 2016 and do not cover calls already reported, but the number of community events, fundraising activity, training and number of volunteer hours and duty crew days. Scott said they submitted the report for the first quarter, but due to the financial and mileage reporting already required, among other duties in the department, he did not have the time to collect the information.

Scott has since passed the duty off to another member of the department.

“I understand the intent of Mr. McCarty and the remainder of the Board of Supervisors when this was initiated was to inform the citizens of the valuable service the volunteers provide by reporting the abundance of hours that the volunteers invest in their service to the citizens in addition to the emergency calls that we answer.  I respect that and appreciate the intent, however it does require time and create additional work for volunteers to gather this data and submit the report,” said Scott.

McCarty said the Board had talked about devising a funding agreement with the county’s seven fire and rescue organizations but that hasn’t been done yet.

“How would any staff take it upon themselves to try to determine what this Board’s intent was when it relates to funding,” McCarty said.

The Board is trying to repair relationships and then this happens, he said.

McCarty was referring to an acrimonious standoff that lasted more than a year between the Carrollton and Windsor Volunteer Fire Departments over a facilities use agreement in 2014-15.

The issue nearly went to court when the two agencies filed a petition to have its funding restored. The Board at the time decided not to fund the two agencies because they wouldn’t sign the facilities use agreement. While the Board agreed to pay the bills, the arrangement to obtain payment proved cumbersome and essentially unworkable, according to the volunteers. The disputed facilities use agreement was revised after Windsor and Carrollton hired an attorney to help with negotiations. The remaining five agencies also signed the revised agreement.

The withheld funding was restored in late 2015, three new Board members were elected and the former county administrator resigned.

Terwilliger was hired as chief of emergency services in the midst of the controversy.  {/mprestriction}