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Editorial: More discussion needed from commissioners on Rescue Squad

When Rowan County commissioners got their first look at the proposed 2019-20 budget last week, there were notable changes from prior years, as with any budget.

But one, in particular, caught our eye.

Money for the Rowan County Rescue Squad was not placed in its usual location — special appropriations. Instead, it was seemingly paused while a quiet debate plays out over the organization’s future. Though, depending on whom you talk to, the best way to describe the funding’s status is “earmarked” or in need of a county commission vote.

Whatever the terminology, a vote by county commissioners is essential. But that’s not all, as commissioners might reasonably claim a vote on the budget is enough. We think commissioners should have a robust discussion on the $440,000 in Rowan County Rescue Squad funding at their budget workshop on June 3.

Is there a better destination for that funding? And, if so, will it provide the same level of service as the Rescue Squad, which is powered mostly by volunteers? We think that’s unlikely. Also, if the funding is pulled entirely, who fills in until a permanent solution is found? The Salisbury Fire Department?

If funding is decreased commensurate with a sharper focus on rescue services, who will provide the backup services and other medical assistance currently provided by the Rescue Squad?

With weeks until a decision must be made and a budget passed, there are many questions that have not yet been answered publicly.

Make no mistake, the need for specialized rescue services across Rowan County is not going away. And the Rescue Squad’s specialized rescue services have saved many lives. Those are lives that pay taxes, own property and count Rowan County commissioners as their local government representatives. While the Rescue Squad is also not a government entity, the county wields a heavy hand in determining its future by funding a sizable part of its budget and appointing people to its board of directors.

For those reasons, there must be a robust discussion among commissioners specifically about a shift in Rescue Squad funding, whatever that change may bring.

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