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Volunteer rescue squad faces unexpected closure

 

JENNA-LEY HARRISON

SARAH LOWERY

Staff Writers

 

After serving Lincoln County for more than half a century, one volunteer technical-rescue service and backup ambulatory group has been ordered to cease operations by Sunday.

Workers with Lincoln County Life-Saving Crew (LCLSC), stationed on North Academy Street in Lincolnton, were outraged when they received news Wednesday that four of the organization’s eight Board of Directors voted to close down the facility during an impromptu meeting earlier that evening, which many workers said they knew nothing about.

Interim Chief Trent Canipe said he learned of the secret meeting while it taking place and asked to give input on the topic. Board members refused to hear him, he said.

Board President Dr. Dan Koch sent a letter Wednesday to the county’s Emergency Medical Services Director Ronald Rombs stating LCLSC “will no longer be available for any emergency response calls” after 11:59 p.m. Sunday.

Workers with the rescue squad said they felt the internal decision was illegally made and should have at least included the group’s majority vote.

While they said they are not opposed to the idea that the organization may eventually have to close, they want the verdict to include workers’ say.

“We just want a true board meeting, and have (the decision) voted on by the crew,” Canipe said.

He hinted that board members may have made the decision in connection to a recent internal financial issue—an issue he said was easily and readily solved earlier this month.

LCLSC, which provided the county’s first ambulatory services in 1957, still provides standby services today for various county events throughout the year including Apple Festival, Relay for Life and Special Olympics.

If LCLSC closes, West Lincoln Rescue Squad will be the only volunteer ambulatory group left in the county since East Lincoln Rescue Squad closed several years ago, Canipe said.

Assistant County Manager Martha Lide said LCLSC’s termination would have a minimal impact, if any, on the community.

“We do not anticipate having any disruption in the response to emergency calls,” she said.

Lide also stressed that EMS and local fire departments in LCLSC’s jurisdiction will continue to respond to any incidents.

Because of the decrease in the volunteer agency’s call volume, county officials worked to raise response numbers for a time but saw little change and continued to fight “an uphill battle,” Lide said.

The county can no longer justify using taxpayer money to keep the facility open, but officials did praise the volunteer workers for their “countless” service hours over the years.

“It has just become increasingly difficult to have volunteers provide coverage 24/7,” Lide said.

Canipe said the organization has sought a lawyer and will have a first meeting with its attorney today.

 

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