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With chief on leave, Rescue Squad debates organization’s future

SALISBURY — The fate of the Rowan County Rescue Squad has been up for debate following a membership meeting last week.

The squad has been without its longtime Chief Eddie Cress since he was placed on a 60-day administrative leave in March. Cress was placed on leave by the rescue squad’s board of directors during a meeting. County Emergency Services Chief Chris Soliz has been the interim in that time. No reason was ever given as to the nature of Cress’ leave.

And, with Cress on leave, the Rowan County Rescue Squad board has been considering how to and whether to reform the agency’s operations

During a membership meeting last week, the squad was reportedly given options about what its next moves could be — to continue in its same capacity without county funding or a contract to provide services; turn everything over to county government and let it run the squad or sell off everything and dissolve the agency.

The rescue squad provides backup ambulance service for the county, an array of rescue services and assists on some fire and accident calls.

Members said Tuesday they were made to believe the first option was the only one. The county provides a large portion of the rescue squad’s budget — about $430,000. The Rowan County United Way also provides some funding for the nonprofit organization.

On Tuesday, the Rescue Squad board heard from a few current and past squad members, all of whom shared what the end of the organization would mean for the community.

Members skirted around some unspoken issues with their former administration but maintained squad members, and not solely the board of directors, should be involved in any decisions that affect the organization going forward, including the hiring of its next chief. As it stands currently, the board of directors has the final say.

Squad member Mike Brady suggested the board talk directly with the squad to decide the next move together.  Brady said he felt there was a rush to determine what to do next. Brady said budgeting is an issue.

The board also heard from TJ Brown, of Rowan County Emergency Services, who gave the board a rundown of its current financial situation.

“No organization is without its problems…I urge you to do the right thing for the citizens of this county,” said Scott McCaskill.

McCaskill lives in Davidson County, but said he provides assistance to Rowan County when it comes to specialized rescue assignments.

He said the Rowan Rescue Squad should be allowed to continue because doing without it would be a disservice to the community.

Rescue Squad Board members Bill Feather and Mike Caskey went back and forth Tuesday discussing a options that the members had not heard before, including selling surplus equipment and making other cuts in order to sustain the agency without county funding.

Another option could be to close the Rockwell station, which mostly houses equipment for the rescue squad and the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office. Members confirmed that very few calls are made from that location.

The board made no final decision but will work toward a timeline, as it has asked for an extension in the county’s interim management contract. During the next 60 days, the board will do several things, including assessing its property and equipment to determine the true value.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.



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