Rescue squad keeps fighting for funds

Published 8:32 pm Monday, May 24, 2010

The Nansemond-Suffolk Volunteer Rescue Squad is making a final appeal to city government for full funding of its support request.

“We have people appealing to each and every member of [City] Council,” Deputy Chief Rusty Hundley said. “If Council does not reconsider and give us what we need to get through, there’s no guarantee we can make it through the end of the next fiscal year.”

The city funded only half of the squad’s $100,000 request in nonprofit organization allocations for the upcoming fiscal year. The Suffolk Department of Fire and Rescue also never gave the squad about $20,000 of the $100,000 that was allocated for the current fiscal year, Hundley said. The squad, which has served the city for 50 years, had to borrow money to cover the $20,000 difference.

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“Without council reconsidering and reappropriating the money we need to get us through, there’s no guarantee we’ll still be operating June 30 of 2011,” Hundley said.

Hundley and other members of the squad contend that for the city to provide the services the volunteers now render would cost far more than what the city is withholding.

“The cost for them to replace us is going to be far beyond the $100,000 we ask for each year,” Hundley said, adding that “$100,000 doesn’t even pay for two people.”

Though Hundley said members of the squad are appealing to council members, Mayor Linda T. Johnson said Monday she has not heard from anyone on the squad.

“Nobody’s talked to me,” she said. “It’s not a conversation I’ve had with anyone.”

Johnson acknowledged some groups did not get their full funding requests, but she believes the city manager did a good job with the budget.

“With the budget as tight as it was, there are a number of groups of people that would like to have more money,” she said. “I think that she did the best she could with what she had to work with.”

Vice Mayor Curtis Milteer said he supports additional funding for the rescue squad.

“The rescue squad has done a magnificent job,” he said. “I think we need to go the extra mile.”

Even though City Council has already passed the budget, a transfer of funds from one category to another can be completed by a majority vote of the council members.

Hundley said the rescue squad would rather disband than do a mediocre job.

“We’re not going to function at a substandard level if we don’t have the funds to operate at the first-rate level we have been,” he said.

Hundley said the funding decisions the last two years have been disappointing.

“Individually, they tell us they support us, but it doesn’t seem that anybody’s willing to stand up at council and say, ‘Hey, these guys are a bargain, we need to make sure they continue to exist,’” Hundley said. “It’s quite disappointing to our membership to see that we have as little support as we apparently do.”