Council debates rescue squad's existence

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A town council member wonders: if Hillsville Volunteer Rescue Squad is disbanded, why does it still have officers and property?

By Brian Funk, Editor

HILLSVILLE — Existential debates don’t often break out at government meetings, but the question whether a disbanded rescue squad does or does not exist arose at the Aug. 13 Hillsville Town Council meeting.
The question, raised by Council Member David Young, is this: if Hillsville Volunteer Rescue Squad no longer exists, then why does it have officers and how can it still own equipment and supplies?
“We need to research if they are still a rescue squad,” Young said. “We need to find out where they’re meeting and who they are.”
“There is no rescue squad,” said Council Member Greg Yonce.
Young brought up the issue as part of an ongoing discussion about what to do with the rescue squad building on South Main Street, which the town owns. The holdup has been that the building houses items that belong to the squad.
Former town manager Larry South, who also is treasurer of the rescue squad, told council months ago that the medical supplies and first aid equipment in the building needed to be sold and the facility cleaned out before the town sold it.
Since then, South has left the town manager position and the issue remains unresolved.
Hillsville rescue was dissolved by Carroll County years ago, after a member was charged with misusing equipment. An effort to reopen it failed, and no local doctor would sign on as a medical advisor, explained Vice Mayor Ed Terry.
All that remains of the rescue squad is a group of officers and some unsold items.
“I can’t find a member” of the squad, Young said. “Do they have bylaws? Monthly meetings?”
As it turns out, there was at least one Hillsville Rescue Squad member in the crowd — former mayor Bill Tate.
“We have had no meetings for six years or longer,” Tate said.
Young began the rescue squad discussion by asking council to change the locks on the squad building.
“Larry South still has a key and he is no longer an employee of the town. This needs to be taken care of,” Young said. “We don’t need people who aren’t town employees in there.”
“Not to mention the lights being on 24 hours a day,” added Mayor Greg Crowder.
Last month, Interim Town Manager Judy Bolt reported that Hillsville had spend more than $4,000 on various expenses at the building, over the course of 13 months.
“Larry and a few other members are working on [the rescue squad situation],” Terry said at the Aug. 13 meeting. “They sold the ambulances, but there are medical supplies still in the building that they need to keep an eye on.
“Larry was in the building as a former captain of the squad to check on the supplies — not as a town representative.”
Tate confirmed that South is an officer of the squad.
How can that be, Young asked, if the squad was dissolved?
“If we’re going to change the locks, then we need to have someone taking care of the building,” Terry said.
The vice mayor said his concern is that the items in the squad building “are not material we are familiar with,” but they do not include drugs.
Yonce said that the town can’t sell or donate the squad’s equipment, because it doesn’t belong to Hillsville. “It’s in the building until they can dispose of it. Until then, we need somewhere to keep it.”
Crowder questioned where the money would go if the squad’s supplies were sold.
“There’s an account set up for that,” Yonce said.
Proceeds from the sale of the building would go to the town, and money from the sale of items inside would go to the squad.
Bolt said last month that there hasn’t been too much response from buyers interested in the old equipment.
From the audience, Police Officer Wesley Yonce — also a member of the town’s fire department — offered his advice when asked by council. “All the equipment is outdated and not usable. The defibrillators, no one would buy. It’s just being stored.”
“What would you recommend?” Crowder asked.
“Scrapping it,” Officer Yonce replied.
Council Member Billy Walls Sr. made a motion on Aug. 13 to hold a public hearing on selling the squad building, but then withdrew it after fellow council members explained that was premature. Council had never declared the property surplus or approved a motion to sell it.
Walls made a motion last month to auction the squad building, and then withdrew if for the same reason. Walls had previously made the same motion on the same issue in March, but it died for the lack of a second.
Young asked Town Attorney Andrea Tolbert to look into the rescue squad issue.