Volunteers ask for more funding

Published 10:38 pm Monday, April 29, 2013

Suffolk’s volunteer fire departments are looking for more money from the city’s annual allocation, which they say is needed to maintain their current level of service.

The city has proposed to give the four volunteer departments a total of $104,000, which the departments are expected to supplement with their own fundraisers.

But Chuck Brothers Jr., chief of the Whaleyville Volunteer Fire Department and president of the Suffolk Emergency Services Commission, says the departments need and deserve more.

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“We are grateful for what we do receive from the city towards operational expenses incurred by the organizations,” he wrote in a statement. “We all are thankful for the great working relationship we have with the fire administration and the great men and women that make up Suffolk Fire and Rescue. However, in today’s environment of escalating expenses this level of support does not meet the challenges we all face day to day to operate our organizations.”

The proposed funding is less than one-half of one percent of the Department of Fire and Rescue’s total proposed budget.

“This is a small amount of support for the approximately 130 members that serve within these organizations and approximately 17 emergency vehicles to operate and maintain,” Brothers wrote.

He added the value of the volunteers is about $5.8 million, based on the average of salaries and wages for the department’s employees.

“We truly understand the economic environment that we are all faced with today,” Brothers wrote. “We will continue to serve this city that we so proudly represent regardless of the economic environment. However, I do believe that each organization is in need of increased budget funding. Budget allocations have remained flat and constant for too many years, while costs to maintain equipment, train personnel and retain an active membership has increased for all organizations.

“We believe that these volunteer emergency first responders who ask for nothing in return should have the fullest support from city council and city administration to provide, support and maintain the public safety program of the City of Suffolk.”

The proposed $104,000 is level funding from the current fiscal year but fell from $110,000 in fiscal year 2012.

Brothers said he would like to see the city begin giving parts of its yearly surpluses to the volunteer departments.

Under a separate line item, the city has proposed giving $40,000 to the Nansemond-Suffolk Volunteer Rescue Squad. A representative did not return a request for comment.