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County to consider severing ties with livesavers

 

SARAH LOWERY

Staff Writer

The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners will consider officially terminating its contract with the Lincoln County Lifesaving Crew during its meeting tonight, following the group ceasing operations last Sunday after more than 50 years of service.

As the Times-News previously reported, members of the volunteer technical-rescue service and backup ambulatory group received word from the organization’s board of directors that it had voted during an impromptu meeting to close down the facility just days before its dissolution.

Many workers with the rescue squad, which was stationed on North Academy Street in Lincolnton, questioned the legality of the move, saying they felt the internal decision was illegally made and should have at least included the group’s majority vote.

Interim LCLSC Chief Trent Canipe said the organization was seeking a lawyer, and it has since hired attorney Wesley Sigmon.

Board President Dr. Dan Koch had sent a letter on April 24 to the county’s Emergency Medical Services Director Ronald Rombs notifying him of LCLSC’s dissolution, stating that the closing had been “foreseen for months.”

Sigmon has now sent a letter of his own to county officials, asking them to not accept Koch’s letter and calling into question whether the LCLSC’s board of directors’ meeting was called in accordance with the organization’s by-laws, according to a memo from County Manager George Wood and Assistant County Manager Martha Lide to commissioners.

Despite this request, the two county heads said they upheld their decision to discontinue dispatching calls and recommend the board move forward with canceling the contract with the LCLSC, since it states that termination may be immediate if there is just cause.

“There have been numerous concerns brought to the county’s attention over the last several years concerning the LCLSC,” they noted in the memo.

They listed among these the group’s financial stability, questions regarding its equipment inventory, the validity of certified staff members, reckless driving en route to scenes and incidents with other first-responder agencies.

Lide has also said LCLSC’s termination should result in no disruption of services, adding that citizens will continue to have their 911 calls responded to by EMS personnel and their local fire department.

She noted that the county had been working with the group, which has seen several leadership changes in recent years, to increase the numbers of calls its members were able to respond to.

“The LCLSC response history has not been consistent over the past several years,” county officials noted in a press release regarding the closure. “They were challenged to respond to 100 percent of calls in the non-Lincolnton portion of their district. They were able to sustain that level for 2012, but there has been a dramatic decline in 2013.”

In the five-day period leading up to the group’s disbanding on April 28, workers responded to 3 of 28 calls. Lide stressed that it was becoming increasingly difficult for volunteer organizations to provide coverage 24/7.

The county provided $51,000 in the current fiscal year’s budget to help support the rescue squad. Any assets of the LCLSC that remain after all debts are paid will be distributed to other local nonprofit or government entities providing similar services in its former district.

Other items on tonight’s Board of Commission meeting agenda include:

  • Four zoning public hearings will be conducted regarding the Lincoln Economic Development Association’s request to rezone property located on the west side of the N.C. 16 bypass in Catawba Springs Township to “General Industrial” to allow for the construction of Denver Global Products’ industrial campus, planned as a 400,000-square-foot facility on a 109-acre site near Airlie Business Park. Commissioners will also consider authorizing a resolution regarding a Community Development Block Grant for water and sewer utilities for the company.
  • A public hearing will be conducted regarding the county’s debt issuance.
  • The Board of Education will present its proposed budget for the next fiscal year, which includes a request for an additional $632,947.
  • Commissioners will consider an agreement with Howard’s Creek Volunteer Fire Department concerning the use of space in its new station for the county’s Sheriff’s Office and EMS for the next 40 years.

The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Citizens Center and is open to the public.

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