by Megan Schiffres
HEATHSVILE—The Northumberland board of supervisors voted, 4-1, to move forward with the process of hiring a second paid emergency services crew for the county at a special meeting Tuesday, September 25.
“Our obligation is to the taxpayer to provide them service one way or the other. And don’t get me wrong, I appreciate everything the volunteers have done and I want them to do all they can but in some areas they’ve let us down,” said board member Richard Haynie.
The decision to consider hiring a second paid crew for the county was originally raised by the board over the summer, after a report by the chief of emergency services showed that volunteer squads in the area had failed to respond to a significant number of 911 calls over the last two years.
Board members Ronald Jett, Joseph Self, James Long and Haynie voted to hire the second paid crew, while member Thomas Tomlin voted against the motion, arguing that because the current paid crew is not always occupied, the expense of a second crew is not justified.
“There have been times specifically as far as I know this month in September, five days or 24 hour periods when the medic crew hasn’t had a call. So then you’re going to add a second crew who could potentially sit there too and not respond,” Tomlin said. “You got people saying why should I respond? There are people getting paid and they’re sitting on their gluteus maximus drawing a paycheck and I’m supposed to be running up and down volunteering my time.”
However, Tomlin was overruled by his fellow board members, who said the cost of paying a crew to be on call was worth the security of knowing that emergencies would be dispatched in a timely manner.
“It concerns me when people are being paid and not working but that doesn’t concern me as much as a person that needs help and it’s not available,” said Self. “I think it’s our responsibility.”
After a motion by chairman Jett to hire the second paid squad was approved, Tomlin introduced a motion to hire a full-time chief to manage the emergency medical services for the county. The motion was seconded by Long, but was voted down by the other board members who thought hiring a new chief was not yet necessary.
“I don’t think now is the time to bring somebody new in. Maybe after we get things rolling,” Jett said.
County administrator Luttrell Tadlock and chief of emergency services Rick McClure will now begin the process of searching for a new emergency services station, hiring a second crew, and procuring a new ambulance for the county, said Tadlock.