The issue facing the CBVRS is that their biannual renewal needs to be signed by the Westmoreland County Administrator by April 30 or it will expire, dismantling the squad and leaving one fifth of the County’s population to the mercy of neighboring Oak Grove Rescue Squad, which is completely county run.
The reason given for not renewing the license was that the squad has not run the amount of calls required by law to meet state standards.
The Boards concern is that the county will be held liable if someone dies due to the inability of the squad to respond to a call.
The board discussed the matter at length in a special meeting held on April 22, 2022.
Several citizens from Colonial Beach packed the meeting room. The town was represented by members of council including Mayor Robin Schick who represented the town and CBVRS interests very professionally.
One of the issues concerning the BOS is the lack of new volunteers over the last decade.
Mayor Schick assured the BOS that the town has been working with the CBVRS to secure property and move forward with providing a new squad building on Colonial Ave. Schick explained that the current location is not adequate and does not provide accommodations for members to sleep at the squad. She explained that this plays an important factor in attracting volunteers.
Chairman Fisher asked Mayor Schick if there was any chance the town would take the responsibility of the squad into their own hands, which would make the CBVRS the full responsibility of the town and the county would have no more jurisdiction over the squad. However this would also shift any liability away from the county and into the hands of the town.
Schick assured the BOS that she could not make that decision unilaterally but also reminded the BOS that the town does not have the ability to take on the full responsibility of the squad.
Supervisor Tim Trivett reminded the BOS that Colonial Beach residents pay taxes to the County for many services, including EMS.
The Rescue Squad, represented by their President, Father Nick Szobota, felt that the calls run by squad members who used their personal vehicles and where an ambulance was not present have gone unnoticed by the statistical data that the county has. The squad also serves to be on hand for school sporting events, town events and for seasonal tourists that are due to start arriving soon.
Board members continued to ask for a plan of actions from the squad members, but the realization that the squad may be in danger of being dismantled has only been known by members for a few weeks.
However despite not having adequate time to come up with a plan the squad reported they have been working on ways to deal with many residential needs such as food delivery, vitals checks for reassurance, education on medical conditions and medications, through a para-medicine program to free up medical resources to run more emergency calls.
After much discussion, Chairman Daryl E. Fisher, entertained a motion, “to authorize the county administrator to sign the re-license application to certify that the Colonial Beach Volunteer Rescue Squad can and will meet all of the criteria that is outlined. “That is the motion we will be looking for and if it’s a majority vote then we will direct the county administrator accordingly.”
5th District Supervisors Timothy Trivett made the motion. 3rd District Dorothy Tate Seconded.
The vote was three in favor (Timothy Trivett, Dorothy Tate and Russ Culver (District 2)) with Chairman Daryl Fisher and W. Hynson 4th District Supervisor opposed.
Before the meeting adjourned Senator Richard Stuart, legal council for the Westmoreland County Board of Supervisors, advised the Chairman, “I feel like I need to advise you all, I thought I was pretty clear on what the law said, but I think you all have effectively adopted a motion to instruct the county administrator to do something that is illegal. I would advise you not to do that. I have to advise you not to do it, but it’s up to you all what you do.”
Westmoreland County Director of EMS, Bill Cease asked for guidance.
Chairman Fisher said, “We’re at a point where I believe that going forward, against the advice of the county attorney, that we, the board and county administration will have to have some discussion with EMS, that we can outline some kind of plan to expediently bring this together.”
“Now let me say this before we leave. The rescue organization, of Colonial Beach Volunteer Rescue Squad, you all have a tight window to get it up to speed, because I am not comfortable with this decision, but in a democratic process 3 to 2, that’s the motion we’ve instructed against council to direct the county administrator to perform and illegal act. I understand feelings but I want you all to rally behind us when the lawsuit come.”