After a change in leadership and a temporary closure over the spring and summer, the squad reopened in September, but it is still struggling financially.
“I now see after three months, three solid months, it costs us a lot to operate,” said Anthony Buckner, the new head of the rescue squad. “And we can’t continue to operate like that.”
As previously reported by the Times News, emergency services in Nickelsville were “temporarily paused” after the former captain, Greg Marshall, resigned in February 2017. Marshall’s resignation left the squad with no administrative structure, which left it unable to provide services.
From March to June, emergency calls from Nickelsville were handled by either the Duffield Fire and Rescue Squad or the Scott County Life Saving Crew. Meanwhile, the board of directors of the Nickelsville Rescue Squad worked to get a new power structure in place in order to reopen.
Buckner was chosen to lead the squad, which reopened on Sept. 14 of last year. The organization has been on probation with the Scott County Board of Supervisors since that time. Over the last few months, Buckner said, the squad has missed only a couple of calls, but that hasn’t come without a financial cost.
The current problem
In a progress report given to the BOS last week, Buckner revealed that the squad is facing financial difficulties, mostly due to payroll.
Buckner said most of the people running emergency calls are paid employees, and a few of them are manning the building at all times even if no calls are coming in. That has led to a monthly payroll cost of around $12,000, compared to the $4,687 it cost the Duffield and Scott County crews to run the Nickelsville calls each month.
“I’ve already looked at it in the past week how we’re going to have to reduce coverage to make sure we can budget within our means,” Buckner said, “but when we do that … there are going to be calls that are going to be missed.”
The proposed solution
County supervisors were all in agreement that Buckner should cut back on his payroll costs. BOS Chairman David Redwine also advised Buckner to consult with the squad’s board of directors more frequently about financial matters.
“I just think they need to be more involved,” Redwine said. “I know some of the people on that board, and I can’t believe that they see this bank account going down, down, down and they haven’t made some changes or suggested some changes to try to stop the bleeding, because it’s pretty severe.”
The BOS voted to extend the squad’s probationary period another 90 days, until the board’s April meeting. Buckner was also asked to give another report to the BOS at its next meeting on Feb. 7.