EMS Comprehensive Plan Puts Pressure on Highland County Board of Supervisors at January 17 Meeting

Tensions ran high at the January 17 Highland County Board of Supervisors work session as issues with the EMS comprehensive plan were discussed. 


Chair Henry Budzinski gave the steps for the plan.


“At our last meeting, we presented the comprehensive plan. Tonight is for any public comment on it, or suggestions on it. And what we hope to do is formally implement it at our next meeting. We’re going through a three step process to keep the community informed. At our January 2 meeting, we presented the plan to the public. Tonight’s meeting is for any public comment. And then, at our February 6 meeting, we’ll formally adopt it.”


Citing issues with communication, EMS chief Nick Fialo asked at the start of the meeting that all squads, including the paid EMS squad and two volunteer agencies be moved under one license. This resulted in an outburst that pitted Fialo against Supervisor Paul Trible, with Budzinski intervening.


Fialo: “I’ve asked Captain (Debbie) Trible for access to admin in her system, and she denied me. This is one of the many problems I’ve faced since I’ve been here since August. They do not want to play nice in the sandbox.”


Supervisor Trible: “No, no, no. I’m not going to let you finish.”


Fialo: “You’re going to let me finish because you should.”


Supervisor Trible: “How dare you come in here and talk to me like this?”


Chair Budzinski: “Paul.”


Supervisor Trible: “How dare you.”


Both Trible and Fialo stood in anger during the heated exchange, while Budzinski moved to diffuse the situation.


Highland County Volunteer EMS Captain Debbie Trible, gave her options when asked for comment.


“We’ve been running around this fencepost for a long time in this county. And it needs to be worked out for what is the best thing for the residents of our county, that they get the best possible care that everybody has to offer. Whether you’re earning a paycheck, or not earning a paycheck, your standards have to be the same. It doesn’t matter if there’s a paycheck with dollar signs behind it or not. Your volunteers volunteer because we’re able to. And we just need to work together between Bolar and Highland and whoever the career staff is. We need the career staff in this county. There is not doubt, we’ve got to work together and I think we will and we’ll get it done.”

Matt Ratcliffe, captain of the Bolar Volunteer Rescue Squad, then gave his take.


“When I come up this way, I dread it. I honestly dread it because of all this friction going on. And all my members will say the same thing.”


After all comments, Budzinski asked for all three parties – Debbie Trible, Ratcliffe and Fialo – get together to come up with a solution that could be part of the comprehensive plan, with the goal still being to formally adopt the plan on February 6.

Story By


Brit Chambers

Brit Chambers is a resident of Highland County, Virginia and a news reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio. She loves living in a small town and relishes the outdoor adventures and community feeling that Highland has to offer. Brit has a background in journalism, marketing, and public relations and spends her free time reading good books, baking sourdough bread, and hiking with her family.

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