Highland EMS Operating Outline Dominates April Meeting

Time became a huge factor at the April 2 meeting of the Highland County Board of Supervisors as supervisors struggled with making the decisions needed to move forward with budgets and plans in time for statements to go out to taxpayers. 


As discussion continued on an EMS comprehensive plan, it was noted that the April 11 public hearing to discuss a hike in both EMS and enterprise fees for the county will move forward, even without knowing how much EMS services to the county would cost. 


The original comprehensive plan had been tabled at the last meeting and was officially voted down on April 2. Highland County Volunteer Rescue Squad President John Montgomery presented a new proposal, which puts all EMS operations under the volunteer squad.


County Attorney Melissa Dowd expressed concerns about the plan, mostly regarding the dismissal of the EMS chief, which she felt went against state statute. She also strongly discouraged the board from hiring anyone who receives a county salary that would not be supervised by the county, which was the way the plan was presented.


The full EMS proposal for Highland County as presented by the Highland County Volunteer Rescue Squad, can be viewed using the link in blue below.


As written, the total cost to the county would be $374,830, which represents a difference of $438,598 to the budget presented by current Highland County EMS Chief Nick Fialo. The cost savings is accomplished by the firing of the chief and operations savings in putting all county entities together. Shifts will also be covered by volunteers, resulting in less pay and benefits overall. Highland County Volunteer Rescue Squad Captain Debbie Trible said she had the volunteers to cover the 24-hour shifts and that scheduling would not be an issue.


Supervisors Henry Budzinski and Harry Sponaugle questioned this, as it had been an issue in the past, both noting that the county can’t go backwards in the terms of care they are providing.


“But you have three clear choices here. You can go with the full pay, the comprehensive plan, or what we’ve presented here… and there can be modifications to each of these. But I would encourage you, just make a damn decision,” said Montgomery when addressing the board.


In the end, supervisor Paul Trible gave a motion to deliver the volunteer report to the EMS comprehensive review committee to give recommendations on the most economical way to handle apparatus, equipment, buildings, and staffing. The committee, however, can not meet or make an informed decision prior to the April 11 advertised hearing. 

HCVRS proposal, April24

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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