City’s plan dishonors squad’s founders

Published 9:06 pm Friday, June 4, 2010

To the editor:

When I read that the Nansemond-Suffolk rescue squad may have to fold due to city funding being cut, I had to ask why. I have deep roots in Suffolk, but I live in Greenville, N.C., currently.

I am biased, as my father was one of five men that started this community service. My brother and I were members, as well. I feel led to review a few points about why this service should not be allowed to fold.

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For those in Suffolk who may not know or who may have forgotten, this service started in 1960 when five men (including my father, William Lewis Bangley, Sr.) became tired of seeing citizens die because they could not get simple first aid or a transport to the hospital.

Before 1960 in Suffolk the only way to get to the hospital was in a personal car owned by family or a friend or by a local funeral home that had a hearse with a Gurney and one oxygen bottle.

My father and these other men knew Suffolk could do better. They met with businesses in town and received some funds to get started. They were given a 1958 Chevrolet carryall truck and were allowed to park it in a local muffler shop.

They paid out of pocket to cover supplies and gas, and they had a jacket to show they were with the squad.

Why did they do this? I have a copy of an article from the Suffolk News-Herald in 1979, when my father was interviewed after he was awarded the Phillip Hill Award. (Phillip Hill was another of the five men who founded the Squad, and had died in service to it.) The headline read, “Rescue Squad member remembers war’s toll.”

My father was quoted as saying: “Everybody if proud of his community has an obligation to help better his community. The personal pride in knowing I helped the community is the only personal gain I have.”

The men and the men and women in the squad today share this pride in our community, and they are doing something about it!

When I read that there would be no additional cost to the city if the squad closed, I have to question something. If it is true that the volunteers are covering 12-hour shifts Monday through Friday and the weekends for 24 hours both days, how does the fire department have the manpower to absorb these hours?

I did some quick math, and for two people to cover those shifts would require 120 paid hours per week. Weekends would require an additional 96 hours. This totals 216 hours per week. I do not know the cost of a fireman with city benefits per hour, but if we assume a modest $20 per hour the cost would be $4,320 per week, or $224,640 per year!

What was the amount the volunteers were asking for? $100,000, sounds like a great deal to me!

Volunteers have to meet the same training and certifications as the fire department’s EMS staff, so patient care is delivered the same.

The volunteers do this, as my father said back in 1979, to put something back into this community. Maybe Suffolk has moved away from this community pride. Maybe we as a society have forgotten why five men in Suffolk saw a need. Maybe this should be seen as a wakeup call.

I am proud I came from Suffolk, and of the things I learned and grew up with. I urge the city council to reevaluate this issue and take the right action. If not, I feel sorry that Suffolk has turned its back on a great community service.

Charles “Skip” Bangley

Winterville, N.C.