New EMS Plan Ends with Highland County Rescue Squad Shuttered – Part 2

This is part two of our story, titled New EMS Plan Ends with Highland County Rescue Squad Shuttered. 


A special meeting was called by the Highland County Board of Supervisors on April 16. After a 30-minute closed session, the board reconvened in open session. Chairman Henry Budzinski then made a motion to authorize an outside attorney to review the existing memorandum of understanding between the county and Highland County Volunteer Rescue Squad, the EMS policies, and the EMS ordinance. Harry Sponaugle seconded the motion. In the vote, both Budzinski and Sponaugle voted in favor and Paul Trible voted against, thus passing the motion to seek outside counsel 2-1.


In the public comments at the April 11 Highland County Board of Supervisors Meeting the board heard from many concerned citizens. Here’s a brief overview of those comments:


“My name is David Kiser. I was born and bred in Blue Grass, Virginia 85 years ago. And I remember when we didn’t have a rescue squad. Back then, if someone had a problem, they took them to the hospital in the back of their automobile. That was the beginning of the rescue squad. From there, we’ve progressed to where we are today. And what we have today is a concrete foundation of our rescue squad, from the volunteers. We don’t have to pay them. We do in the community what we’re expected to do. Friends and neighbors helping each other. Let’s keep our rescue squad. Let’s keep our volunteers. And let’s keep our genuine, absolutely payable program. Thank you.”


“Margaret Ralston, McDowell. I have had occasion to be helped not personally, but obviously my family members, by both the volunteers and the paid staff. I know I’ve heard a couple of people in here today say the volunteer staff is here for the community, it’s the paid staff that’s in it for the paycheck. I’m in recruiting. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve gotten out of the healthcare industry that are absolutely burned out and they find out how much I can pay them to go into manufacturing. So, the people that are here, even if they’re here on paid staff, are here because they have the heart to want to help other people. Without that, people die. And that’s all I want to let other people know.”


“I’m David Neil from McDowell and ya’ll know me as the former sheriff here.  I do not want to see our community go back to where it was eight or nine years ago. With all respect to these volunteers all over, and I’ve talked to ya’ll, my wife used to be an EMT, and it takes a lot of work and a lot of dedication. When I was sheriff, I sat in that dispatch center. I heard as many times eight or nine calls go out for rescue. And I have been with some of those people in their house, and I’ve got to stand there and make excuses why the rescue squad ain’t getting there. They’re toning and nobody’s coming. So I don’t want to see us go back to what it was. I don’t know what the answer to all of this is, I hope we can get together. I don’t mind paying a little bit of extra money if I know when I call somebody’s bus is going to be in my yard when I call. 


Back to the outside attorney, it was decided in the meeting that County Attorney Melissa Dowd, Budzinksi, and interim county administrator Jerri Botkin will work to find the outside counsel to complete the requested review. This is a developing story. Stay tuned to Allegheny Mountain Radio for more information as it becomes available.

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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