Commissioners approve Rescue Squad funding, note structural changes

Published 9:37 pm Tuesday, July 2, 2019

SALISBURY — During Monday’s Rowan County commissioners meeting and in a period of transition for the agency, the commissioners voted to move money out of the contingency fund for the Rowan County Rescue Squad.

The total amount to be transferred is $420,000. And that transfer represented just one of two notable changes for the Rescue Squad announced during Monday’s meeting. The second item spelled out plans for structural changes in a letter from the squad’s board of directors to County Manager Aaron Church.

Commissioner Mike Caskey said in an interview with the Post that the county’s intentions never included not funding the Rescue Squad, just to make some changes. But following the suspension and eventual departure of longtime Chief Eddie Cress earlier this year, squad members had been given options for the organization’s future. Those options included continuing without county funding or a contract to provide services; letting county government run the squad; or selling the squad’s equipment and dissolving the agency.

“Rowan County provides almost 74% of our funding through allocation and reimbursement of ambulance services,” the letter to Church says. Still, despite receiving three-fourths of its funding from the county, the Rescue Squad is a nonprofit agency — not a public agency.

“Through our recent challenges, we have discovered (the Rescue Squad) to be an effective entity,” the letter to Church said. “We have already begun to look at our revenue sources, expenses, services provided and management structure.”

The Rescue Squad board spelled out county officials’ concerns in the letter to Church, saying:

• There was not an anti-nepotism policy.

• The board’s structure was not conducive to serve the overall interestes of those who receive Rescue Squad services.

• There weren’t enough checks and balances to ensure proper management of the organization.

• The current structure did not create an atmosphere for employees and volunteers to express their concerns without fear of repercussions.

• If the issues weren’t addressed, the county wouldn’t fund the rescue squad.

The concerns led to changes that included:

• A nepotism clause was been put in place. The clause will prohibit two immediate family members being employed full time or part time by the squad.

• The squad will restructure membership of its board. Members to be appointed by county government include: Emergency Services chief; telecommunications chief; a county commissioner; and a county resident who is not a county employee and does not have a connection to the squad. Members to be appointed by the Rescue Squad membership include: a fire chief from a department in Rowan County; a municipal elected official; one Rescue Squad officer; and a county resident who is not a county employee and does not have a connection to the squad

• The board will restructure responsibilities of the Rescue Squad board.

• A director of administration position will be created.

• The chief will be a volunteer position who is responsible for operations and volunteers.

Caskey said the squad is important to Rowan County. The Rescue Squad is able to perform rescues that most volunteer fire departments aren’t equipped to handle, and it doesn’t make sense for them to know how to do, he said.

“This is a good doctrine, a great starting place,” said Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds during Monday’s meeting.

 Contact reporter Samuel Motley at 704-797-4264.