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Two stations in the southernmost part of the county still rely entirely on volunteers.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Several speakers, including a man who said he tried in vain to keep alive a neighbor who suffered a heart attack just that morning while waiting for an ambulance, demanded Wednesday night that the Botetourt County Board of Supervisors place paid emergency workers at stations in the southernmost part of the county.
“We need protection,” Charles Williams told the board during its public hearing about the proposed $90.9 million budget for 2013-14.
Williams and others who spoke got the attention of a majority of supervisors who agreed the county must address the fact that the two stations in that part of the county still rely entirely on volunteers.
“It’s incumbent upon this board to take this situation with EMS in the southern part of the county very seriously,” Buchanan District Supervisor Terry Austin said.
Austin said the proposed budget includes funding to fully staff a station around the clock, but the board needs to move forward on deciding where that paid staff should be placed.
Brenda Boger of Blue Ridge was pleased to hear that. Boger told the board of her own recent heart attack, and how she was fortunate to have ignored her symptoms and driven toward work that morning. She collapsed in Daleville and received almost immediate help from rescue workers, instead of potentially enduring a near-fatal wait at her home.
The tame hearing with about a dozen speakers was a welcome difference from last year’s hearing when hundreds showed up to protest possible cuts the county faced if the real estate tax rate was not increased. It was ultimately raised 7 cents to 72 cents per $100 of value.
No tax rate increases are proposed for this year.
The proposed budget is up a modest 1.4 percent, or $1.3 million from the current adopted budget.
Most of the increase was from small jumps in local tax revenues, including hotel/motel tax, meals tax and sales taxes.
“We don’t have a trend yet, but we are seeing signs of recovery,” County Administrator Kathleen Guzzi said before the hearing.
The largest part of the budget — $53.8 million, or about 59 percent — will go for school operations.
The largest spending increases are in the public safety area and capital improvement, Guzzi said, the latter primarily because of moving forward with deferred spending, with the main cost being “critical” upgrades to the county’s emergency radio communications system.
Only one speaker pressured the board to spend more prudently.
“I want you all to spend our money as if it’s coming out of your personal checkbook,” Donald Helms of Cloverdale told the board.
The greatest number of speakers came out for a boost in the county’s spending on library books. Several years ago, the budget allocated $120,000 for new books. Last year, the number dipped to $40,000.
The proposed budget increased that to $60,000, but library supporters asked for $80,000.
At least three supervisors, Austin, Mac Scothorn and Billy Martin, supported finding a way to meet that request.
The board is expected to vote on the budget April 23.
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