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Rowan County Rescue Squad to submit chief nominations

SALISBURY — Members of the Rowan County Rescue Squad have 30 days to submit nominations for who they believe would make a viable candidate for squad chief.

The decision comes three months after the previous chief, Eddie Cress, was placed on administrative leave.

County Emergency Services Director Chris Soliz has been the interim chief since March. Cress had been chief since 2013, and no official reason was ever given for his removal.

The nominations would be presented to the agency’s board of directors and then to Rowan County, which predominantly funds the squad. The squad also receives funds from Rowan County United Way.

Members of the Rescue Squad’s board discussed at length its structure and bylaws at a meeting Thursday. They also discussed how they could give squad members a bigger role in decision making.

Board members discussed giving squad members the opportunity to choose a certain number of representatives on the board of directors.

During the meeting, the board also approved a nepotism policy that says two members of an immediate family cannot be employed full or part time with the department.

“The term ‘immediate family’ shall be understood to refer to that degree of closeness or relationship which would suggest that problems might be created within the department or where there is a possible conflict of interest,” the policy states.

There was no nepotism policy in place before Thursday’s meeting. Members said the policy does not currently affect anyone on the Rescue Squad. But when Cress was the squad chief, his wife, LuAnn, was a battalion chief and his son, Austin, was a squad member.

The new policy also says that if a squad member is strictly a volunteer and is not compensated by the rescue squad, the new policy would not affect him. Any disciplinary issues that arise would be assigned to another chief to handle.

The board decided to review its bylaws but in the meantime will continue abiding by the current ones.

Members said, years ago, the bylaws were changed to take away squad members’ ability to make some decisions about how the squad should operate.

The goal is to return to some of the founding principles and give members more of a stake in what happens, board members said. The squad’s attorney, Jeremy Carter, and Soliz will review the bylaws, then send them to members for them to review as well.

There are about 13 active volunteer members of the squad, but there also are number of special teams, including the dive team, which brings the total number closer to 45.

The board will hold its next meeting at 6 p.m. June 13 at the station, 1140 Julian Road.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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