In 2006, a company called Solutions for Local Government Inc prepared a â€œStrategic Plan for Fire and Emergency Servicesâ€ here in Lincoln County.
Tom Anderson, then chairman of the Board of Commissioners, asked me to chair a committee to implement the recommendations. Former Commissioner Marie Moore was on that committee as well, (as Commissioner George Arena is now), along with the president and vice president of the Fire and Rescue Association, Jay Flynn from Denver, and Rodney Seagle from the Union Fire Department.
Also members were Susan Spake, Ron Rombs, Stan Kiser (now George Wood) and myself.
Part of the task at hand was to determine what part Rescue Squads would play in the future of Lincoln County Rescue. We looked at everything from response times to the number of calls they responded to.
Early on, it was the opinion of the committee that there was a duplication of service in the eastern part of the county. We met with East Lincoln Rescue and tried to get them to specialize in an area such as water rescue that would make them a viable asset once again.
With four paid fire depts. providing rescue and having the ability to get on the scene much faster because the staff was already at the station, it was clear we were not spending taxpayer dollars most wisely.
We repeatedly asked them to come up with a plan. We asked them to consider merging with the fire departments in that area so the volunteers could still work in our community. Never one time did we get an answer. That would also keep the equipment in the community that paid for it. Never a response.
On Jan. 21 of this year, EL Rescue was notified that Lincoln County would no longer fund them and their franchise would not be renewed. This was the unanimous recommendation from the Emergency Services Committee to the Commissioners.
On Feb 17, County Manager George Wood and myself went to EL Rescue and met with their Board of Directors. We went hoping to hear a plan that would keep the assets in the community and that they had voted to merge with the fire departments.
They had known all along that East Lincoln Fire Department needs a sub station in that very area and it would save the taxpayers a considerable amount of money. Instead of a plan, we got a tongue lashing for not continuing to fund them. Still no plan.
We had hoped they would do the right thing in all of this and keep the assets in the community that paid for them. Why should people pay for this equipment twice?
We are truly disappointed in their decision to give equipment to other counties when we have two fire departments that cover the lake in our own county. We are further frustrated with the fact that they are going to auction off equipment that the community bought.
Folks gave money to them to provide rescue. While the Rotary is an outstanding organization, I believe the citizens in East Lincoln have been shortchanged by the Board of Directors of the East Lincoln Rescue for reasons that are more for apparent spite than doing the right thing for the citizens of our county.
Unfortunately, over the years no one ever put in those contracts a provision on how to deal with the disposition of assets. That is now a part of fire contracts in Lincoln County due to this committee. Rescue Squads are a nonprofit corporation governed by their charter.
We would simply ask that all citizens contact the Board of Directors of the East Lincoln Rescue and express your displeasure with Lincoln County citizens buying assets that are then given to organizations outside of Lincoln County or being resold to the highest bidder when they should be given to the local fire depts.
We were not aware of their decision until the press release came out. We certainly appreciate the service of the Rescue Squad through the years and trust the members will seek out other opportunities to serve Lincoln County. We truly hope the Board of Directors will rethink this decision and do what is in the best interest of Lincoln County.
Alex Patton is chairman of the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners. He lives near Lincolnton.
by Alex Patton, Guest Columnist