Highland County Board of Supervisors September 2023 Meeting – Pt 1

The Highland County Board of Supervisors held its monthly meeting on September 5.  Supervisor David Blanchard was absent from the meeting.

Paul Trible, President of the Highland County Volunteer Rescue Squad, was first on the agenda. He said the Board of Supervisors purchased an old ambulance that it intends to put in service for use by the paid staff.  He called it an existential threat to the volunteer rescue squad that would cut off revenue stream and likely result in the departure of volunteers.   Trible said if the volunteer ambulances don’t run, funding doesn’t come in.  He said as a member of the EMS Advisory Board, he found it extremely objectionable to find out about the plan for the ambulance and to find out about it second hand.  The EMS Advisory Board was not consulted about it and Trible announced he was resigning from the Advisory Board immediately.  He said the Supervisors’ actions pointed to ending EMS volunteer service, since the county bought an unnecessary building, obtained an unnecessary EMS license and got an unnecessary ambulance.  He said the purchase has driven a wedge between volunteers and paid staff.   Trible said the volunteer rescue squad will no longer operate mixed crews on either a volunteer or a county ambulance. He said paid staff should be toned first and then volunteers.  He said the volunteers have worked very well with paid staff recently.  But he said a few EMS employees now don’t complete duties, are impolite to the volunteers, and don’t show up for work.   There were 34 calls last month and 24 had a volunteer responding.

Supervisor Harry Sponaugle asked Trible why he thought the ambulance purchase would do all the damaging things he said.  Trible asked him why the county needed an ambulance.  Trible said he thought Supervisor Sponaugle was going to say that the volunteers couldn’t get along with the paid staff, which he said was wrong.  Trible said they are getting along well, with the exception of a couple of people not doing the tasks they should be doing.  Supervisor Sponaugle said the previous Chief, Carl Williams, left because he could not get along with the volunteers.  Trible said former Chief Williams told him it had nothing to do with volunteers.  Supervisor Sponaugle then said one of them was told a lie.  Trible also said the Board of Supervisors declined to hire two qualified Highland residents for the Chief position.  Supervisor Sponaugle said the Board took recommendations from Dr. Asher Brand, who did not recommend them.  Trible said Dr. Brand’s decision was incorrect and someone was needed who knows the county.

Highland County Volunteer Rescue Squad will soon have a new ambulance, which was purchased with grant funding, so it will then have a total of three ambulances, along with one at Bolar.  With the new purchase, two current older ambulances will be sold.

During public comment, five people spoke regarding EMS.  They encouraged compromise between the two groups and development of a chain of command and accountability.  There was also a comment that Highland was not unique in having clashes between paid and volunteer EMS, as it also happens elsewhere.

To hear part 2 of this story from the Highland County Board of Supervisors’ September meeting, stay tuned to Allegheny Mountain Radio

Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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