BERRYVILLE — Clarke County’s volunteer firefighters need more input into matters affecting them, at least one believes.
Jason Burns, of the Blue Ridge Volunteer Fire and Rescue Co. in Bluemont, told the Clarke County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that “the majority of us don’t think we’re being listened to.”
Burns spoke during time reserved for the public to comment on matters not on the board’s agenda for discussion. He did not give specific examples as to why he believes volunteers’ concerns are not being heard.
After the meeting, though, Burns told The Star that “decisions have been made without (firefighters) being able to go back and have company consensus.” That has resulted in decisions being reversed because they did not meet fire companies’ needs, he said.
As an example, he said that changes have had to be made to the volunteers’ incentive program several times.
Clarke County has three fire and rescue companies operated mainly by volunteers: Blue Ridge, Boyce Volunteer Fire Company and the John H. Enders Fire Company and Rescue Squad in Berryville.
Two bodies are involved in decisions made on emergency services matters. The county’s Fire and Rescue Association is the volunteers’ voice to the Fire and Rescue Commission, the body that advises the supervisors on how to handle fire and rescue issues. Appointed by the supervisors, the commission includes members from all three companies.
Burns said each company has one representative on the commission.
Burns said a volunteer can speak for only three minutes at a commission meeting.
He also said he has heard comments that volunteers are not as dedicated as they should be.
There are at least 160 volunteers among the three companies, according to county Emergency Services Director Brian Lichty.
Individual volunteers cannot respond to every call because of personal, family or job commitments. But every call is answered, Lichty has said, even if a crew in a neighboring locality must be summoned for help.
The supervisors did not immediately respond to Burns’ comments. They have said it is their policy not to respond to public comments but they take the remarks under advisement.
In another matter, the supervisors approved the county’s performance contract with the Northwestern Community Services Board for the fiscal year that began July 1.
Northwestern is the region’s public provider of behavioral health services. The contract details federal, state and local monies and reimbursements that the organization expects to receive and projected caseloads.
“We need them,” White Post District Supervisor Bev McKay said of Northwestern. “I think they do mental health (services) pretty well.”
Still, McKay said he would like to know more about the organization’s services and finances.
Weiss said the board will request a presentation by Northwestern during a future monthly work session.
Also, the supervisors approved spending $40,000 to purchase a conservation easement for 23 acres in the 1800 block of Wrights Mill Road near Russell Road.
The property has frontage along Opequon Creek and a house built in 1925. If a rural historic district is ever developed, the house may be regarded as a contributing structure, county Joint Administrative Services Director Tom Judge wrote in a memo to the board.
Funds from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will cover half the purchase price. County funds will cover the other half, a document shows.