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Editorial: Members must have say in Rescue Squad’s future

Cool heads must prevail in discussions about the Rowan County Rescue Squad’s future.

When Rescue Squad Chief Eddie Cress was placed on leave in March, it set off a debate among the agency’s board members about reforming the agency. One option that’s been floated would fold the it into a county department. That would spell the end of the Rescue Squad as we know it.

County government funds the squad to the tune of about $430,000 per year. Ambulance services provided to the county represent another significant revenue source — about $131,000. So, while it’s a nonprofit not directly subject to county government’s instructions, the Rescue Squad relies on it for a large share of its funding.

Also significant is the United Way’s funding — about $53,000. That may dissapear regardless of steps county government takes, as the United Way is changing its funding model. The squad’s annual portrait fundraiser is budgeted to raise $124,000 this year.

A bit of comfort for those worried about the Rescue Squad disbanding may come from County Commissioner Mike Caskey, who sits on the agency’s board and says simply pulling county funding is an extreme option.

However, Caskey also says he’s interested in taking a detailed look at reform; it’s better to deal with two uncomfortable matters at once than months or years apart, he told the Post after the meeting Tuesday night. He suggested that an option may be a slimmed down rescue squad only focusing on its core mission — rescue. And his opinion, while only one of five county commissioners, is important because he also owns a vote on the Rescue Squad’s board.

Still, if we’re at the beginning of a debate about reforming the Rescue Squad, the decision cannot be made by its board alone. Members must have a significant say in the agency’s future, too.

A calm, reasoned debate is the best solution. That debate might begin with the future of current chief Eddie Cress. Will Cress stay on in his position and, if not, how will a new chief be selected — the board, members or some combination of the two?

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