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Town calls for Hillsville Rescue to disband

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Hillsville Town Council Member Frieda Jessup once worked to resurrect the closed rescue squad, but now she says it's not feasible.

By Brian Funk, Editor and Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — The Hillsville Rescue Squad has been given up for dead as town officials end their attempts to resuscitate the long-shuttered volunteer emergency medical service.
Carroll County and Hillsville officials moved to close the rescue squad about eight years ago, after learning the captain had inappropriately used an ambulance to move furniture from Marion to an apartment in town.
In efforts to revive the squad, Hillsville got the ambulances and the squad building deeded over to the town, but it failed after several years of trying to get a "certificate of need" from Carroll County to reopen the volunteer organization.
At Monday's town council meeting, Town Council Member Frieda Jessup — a former member of the squad — indicated that it's time to move on.
She had been working toward reopening the squad. "But now I think it should be dissolved and we should use what we have invested in it to help the community."
The proceeds could be used, for example, to create a community park, she suggested.
Mayor Bill Tate, who had also supported reopening the squad, agreed. "It doesn't look like we're going to get it open."
Jessup made the motion, and it was seconded by Council Member Ed Terry.
The squad has four operable ambulances. Terry asked if they were marketable.
“The older box unit, the police department has expressed some interest in,”
Town Manager Larry South said. He said two other ambulances could be sold, too, and there is another older unit.
“Is the building in good shape?” Tate asked.
“Yes, but it needs a roof soon,” South said.
Terry said the town would retain ownership of the rescue squad building, but sell off the equipment.
South said there was an idea to move the rescue squad “under the wing of the Hillsville Fire Department,” but that effort didn't gain much momentum.
“I still have a bad taste in my mouth about what happened [with the rescue squad], but we can't sit on it forever.”
Council member Greg Yonce asked to amend Jessup's motion to authorize South to begin the process of dissolving the squad and disposing of the property.
Council members voted unanimously to disband the squad. Council Member Orba Alderman was absent.
"It's a shame, but that's the way it is," Tate said after the meeting. "It'd still be nice, you know, to have Hillsville Rescue Squad. [We] put a lot in it."
Carroll EMS assumed responsibility for providing emergency medical care in the town after the rescue squad closed. Tate said that is working.
A church has expressed some interest in acquiring the rescue squad building, the mayor said. He's not sure what it's worth, but he believes the squad originally gave $35,000 for that building years ago.
Nor could Tate say what the ambulances would be worth when they go on the block, but it would be nice to use any funds to benefit the community.
"That's a good idea Frieda had," Tate said about putting the money towards a park. "It's got to go to a non-profit. [The proceeds] can't just go anywhere.
"We could do more work on our trail, Beaver Dam Trail — upgrade it."
Tate hasn't spoken to any of the other people he knew that wanted to reopen the squad yet.
"There's going to be a lot of feedback on that, I'd say," the mayor noted. "I'm sorry we have to disband, but we got no other choice."