By Sarah Vogelsong
The area’s volunteer fire stations and rescue squads may soon receive some much-needed help from the county in repairing and improving their facilities.
At its June 10 meeting, the Board of Supervisors voted in favor of a policy that would allow the county to contribute funds toward necessary repair and renovation projects on a company’s building in exchange for alterations to the company’s charter that would ensure that if the company were no longer to exist, ownership of the building would revert to the county.
Fire and EMS Chief Jason Loftus presented the proposed policy, which was recommended by Fire and Rescue Department staff after conversations with the county’s six companies.
Many of the companies’ facilities, particularly those of the Bowling Green and Ladysmith volunteer fire departments, are in need of improvement. Currently, the second floor of the Ladysmith company’s building has been declared no longer habitable because of structural problems, leading to the consolidation of all of the station’s living quarters and offices on the first floor. Repairs and further upgrades to the building have been estimated by the department to cost $150,000.
Repairs to the Bowling Green facilities have also been estimated at $150,000.
“Rest assured, both repairs, even the modifications to Ladysmith, are essential as we look down the road. There’s no frivolous repairs or upgrades,” Loftus told the board last Tuesday.
The policy outlined at the meeting specifies three principals that would be set in place.
First, the county would have a claim of ownership on buildings it provided funds to repair or upgrade in the event that a company ceased to exist or was unable to fulfill its function.
Second, the company requesting aid from the county would be required to provide at least 50 percent of the funds needed, unless it could provide proof of its inability to do so.
Third, if the county paid for any portion of the repairs, the project would be required to follow the county’s formal procurement process, which specifies that a project must be put out for public bid.
Loftus noted that the Ladysmith department has been receptive to the idea of changing its charter, but that three of the county’s six companies—Bowling Green, Port Royal, and Sparta—are in the same predicament of owning their own building but not the land on which the building stands.
“That would be a hurdle for us to overcome,” he told the board.
County administrator Charles Culley expressed his support for the policy, saying “We’ve got to get out of the mode of waiting for something to be condemned.” He also noted that if the county were able to work with the different departments to identify their needs, repair funds could be incorporated into the capital budget, keeping the county from having to pull money from the fund balance at the last moment.
Madison district representative Wayne Acors said, “I like what we’ve got here. It’s a step forward that we have not had in the past.”
All members of the Board of Supervisors voted in favor of the policy. Loftus will now work with the individual fire and rescue departments to determine cost estimates for their repairs and renovations.
“We’re trying to do as much as we can as quickly as we can and as painlessly as we can,” said Chairman Floyd Thomas.