Hillsville rescue reopening difficult

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — Mayor Bill Tate is getting impatient with the town's inability to relaunch the Hillsville Rescue Squad.

Officials closed the town's rescue squad a few years ago after learning that a captain has used an ambulance to haul furniture from Marion to Hillsville, but last year town council members started a push to reopen the agency.

That effort ran into a roadblock when Carroll County officials denied to issue a "certificate of need" for the rescue squad.

Hillsville officials have questioned whether they need the county's approval at all, as state code gives towns the right to form their own squads.

Speaking at the July 27 Hillsville Town Council meeting, officials acknowledged the difficulty of getting the rescue squad off the ground without the county's cooperation.

"What are we going to do with the rescue squad?" Tate said, broaching the issue.

The closure and the effort to reopen the squad has been dragging on, Town Manager Larry South agreed.

Carter Glass, an attorney for the town, has sought an opinion from the office of the attorney general, but that hasn't been handed down yet.

"I guess we could always just try to license it and see what the state says," South said.

The equipment is just sitting there, Tate said, and he's had phone calls in the last few weeks from people who want to join up.

He feels he can't give them an answer.

"It doesn't do any good to say I think the whole thing's a shame," South said.

Emergency medical technicians' training and the rescue equipment are going to waste, he agreed.

It's reached the point where Tate feels like the town ought to "open it back up or sell it."

"I think we ought to just open it back up and see what the county says," the mayor added.

Moving forward would require the town to square away items like use of a radio frequency with the county, South said.

Council Member Frieda Jessup noted that an operations medical director would be required, too. "There's more to it than, 'Let's just go ahead and open.'"

Tate responded that he thought officials had lined up things like the OMD.

Yes, South said, but that was about two years ago.

"I think one of the issues you'd have to address before you get to that point would be the dispatching," Town Attorney Greg Goad pointed out.

(Carroll officials have effectively shut down the Lambsburg Rescue Squad by refusing to allow that squad to be dispatched over the Emergency 911 radio system.)

"Does any one person know what we need to do besides putting gas in the trucks?" Council Member Orba Alderman asked. He guessed a doctor and volunteers needed to be organized, and that the rescue squad's charter still exists.

South said that the non-profit rescue squad still exists and that he and Jessup remain officers.

South knows what's needed — licensing the vehicles and obtaining medicines, among them. That's only part of what's required, though.

"It's going to be difficult to do without the county's cooperation," the town manager said.

At one point, the town had mutual aid agreements signed and worked out protocols for dispatch with the county. South said that occurred during a cooperative period that he's not sure still exists.