Accomack Supervisors Approve 12 Positions For EMS, EMS Support


By Carol Vaughn —

The Accomack County Board of Supervisors approved amending the county budget to fund an additional seven EMS staff, to be stationed at the Greenbackville fire station to provide 24/7 paid staffing.
The board in a separate vote approved amending the budget to cover the cost of an additional five positions to support EMS staffing and training needs for all the fire stations. The positions include three backfill positions, a training coordinator, and a human resources position.
The cost of the first action is $450,000 a year, which this year will come from the EMS fund balance.
The second group of positions added will cost $344,239, with $294,239 to come from the EMS fund balance and another $50,000 from general fund savings.
An EMS tax increase would be required in fiscal year 2024 to pay for the additional staff, although county supervisors Wednesday briefly discussed the option of using a proposed meals tax to help foot the bill.
Accomack County Director of Public Safety Charles R. Pruitt said the need to staff Greenbackville 24/7 is urgent. Data showed Greenbackville Volunteer Fire Department last year had station reliability of just 34% in answering EMS calls, compared to all other stations that handle EMS calls in the county, which had reliability between 82% and 100%.
Pruitt said the additional five positions, including a training coordinator, are needed to make the staffing plan work.
“I still stand firm…it’s proven, if you have a good training program, you have good providers,” he said.
After the votes Wednesday, the only stations in Accomack that will remain without 24-hour county EMS staffing are Melfa and Saxis.
Colby Phillips, senior general manager of Captains Cove, the large community near Greenbackville, spoke in support of adding the positions during public hearings held before the board voted. She noted Captains Cove has 1,300 homes and is growing.
“We can’t rely on the volunteers…because the community has changed. The residents no longer work where they live,” said Greenbackville resident Haydon Gordon. He noted volunteer fire departments in the county buy and maintain their equipment as well as providing the stations.
Brandon Patterson of Melfa Volunteer Fire and Rescue spoke in support of 24-7 staffing for Greenbackville. He said Melfa, which has daytime county EMS staff, pays stipends out of its own funds to provide additional coverage.
“One day those volunteers and those funds will run out. I just ask this board that when that time does happen, if it does happen, that ambulance must be staffed at Melfa firehouse. We have one of the highest running stations on the Shore,” he said.
Aubrey Justice, Saxis Volunteer Fire Department president, also spoke in support of Greenbackville’s request.
He said Saxis has dedicated volunteers and needs only daytime help from the county at present, but the time could come when he comes before the board of supervisors with a similar request to Greenbackville’s.
“Just because we don’t live in a — as I was told — a high tax-paying community, that doesn’t make us any less than it does for those people that live in Captains Cove,” he said.
“Don’t forget in the future, that we stand up here and ask, that we kind of would expect the same consideration,” Justice said.
Public Comment
Owners of property near where a rocket manufacturing and processing facility is proposed to be built on the road leading to Wallops Island expressed concern about the effect noise from its construction could have on horses kept on the property.
“It greatly affects our life,” said Charles Etheridge, speaking during the public comment period at the Accomack County Board of Supervisors meeting Wednesday.
The horses have been on the property nearly a decade, he said.
Etheridge also expressed concern about hazardous chemicals that would be present at the completed facility.
His son, Charles “Rusty” Etheridge, said he recently purchased property in Assawoman and planned to take in additional horses from a Salisbury, Md., rescue group.
“I have a big fear of that property being a disturbance,” he said.
Library Roof Funding
The board of supervisors voted to use federal American Rescue Plan Act money to pay for a roof for part of the new library building under construction in Parksley.
The board previously appropriated $215,493 in library project funds for the additional roof work, of which $7,000 came from the 2022 county budget contingency because the library project’s contingency fund had been exhausted.
Supervisor Paul Muhly asked the board to instead obligate ARPA funds to pay for the roof.
The use is allowed under the category of “revenue replacement,” whereby funds may be used for provision of government services to the extent the local government’s revenue was reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. Treasury guidance says spending for new infrastructure is a permitted use of revenue replacement funds.
“We need to solve this problem. … We need to get the building done,” said Chairman Ron Wolff.
Supervisors Robert Crockett and Donald Hart sparred over Crockett’s proposal to revisit using the ARPA funds for the library project later, if the library project after using all its contingency money on the roof work still needs additional funding.
“We need to clean this up…This is just dirtying it, to me,” Hart said of Crockett’s proposal, made in the form of a substitute motion.
The motion failed and Muhly’s original motion, to use the ARPA money for the roof, was approved.
“I don’t like spending money, any more money than we have to, but some money needs to be spent well and this is an excellent way of spending money for the future of this county. Generations after generations are going to benefit from this Eastern Shore Regional Library and Heritage Center,” Muhly said.

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