Supervisors agree to buy Shenandoah Rescue Squad building and property for $317,700

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Rescue One

By Randy Arrington

LURAY, May 2 — On Monday night during a work session, the Page County Board of Supervisors agreed to pay $317,700 for the purchase of the former Shenandoah Rescue Squad (Rescue One) building from the Shenandoah Volunteer Fire Company, Inc. The rescue squad disbanded in November, and all of its assets reverted to the fire department.

The purchase agreement includes eight tracts of property at 544 Fourth Street in Shenandoah, with tracts 1-3 valued at $287,700 and tracts 4-8 value at $30,000. The agreement also contains a list of other property being conveyed “as is” — smoker; grill; nine wooden tables; two metal cabinets in upper bay; mop bucket; shop vac; l6 chairs; pressure washer; cleaning tools accessories; hose cart; five lockers; beds; file cabinet; printer; desk; furniture; TV; camera system.

“What’s driving this countywide is a lack of volunteers. Providing public safety is expensive, and it’s going to get more expensive,” District 5 supervisor Jeff Vaughan said prior to the vote Monday night. “It’s been a touchy situation…It’s a bridge we’re going to have to cross with Stanley and Luray…it’s just a matter of time.”

Page County Emergency Services has been providing 24/7 ambulance coverage in the southern end of the county exclusively for months, while supplementing volunteer efforts in Stanley and Luray. County EMS staff has been using the Rescue One building to provide that service. According to County Administrator Amity Moler, the county “purchased one of [Rescue One’s] ambulances a few months ago. There was a second ambulance [two-wheel drive] we were not interested in and a fairly new Tahoe, used as a response vehicle, which is now owned by the Shenandoah Volunteer Fire Department.”

“The sad part of this situation is the price we’re paying,” Vaughan said. “That facility is there because of donations of taxpayers…it’s sad we’re crossing this bridge the way we are…I feel we’re paying double.”

Vaughan spoke of how his father and uncle helped form the volunteer-based fire department in Shenandoah.

“It’s sad to see volunteers have dwindled, and we’re down to this point,” Vaughan said. The Shenandoah supervisor has often voiced his opinion at meetings about the future of emergency services in the county, and the fact that volunteerism doesn’t seem to be sustainable over the long term.

However, even more than the transition happening in emergency services, the key source of angst by supervisors in this agreement was the feeling that volunteer firefighters in Shenandoah were taking advantage of the situation.

“We are absolutely being held hostage for something the taxpayers have already paid for,” District 1 supervisor Keith Guzy said. “To hide funds…meeting in the middle of the night…the way this was handled…it wasn’t done right… Lesson learned.”

While Guzy cast the lone dissenting vote against the agreement, District 4 supervisor Larry Foltz voted in favor “against my better judgment.” The motion passed, 5-1, to purchase the Rescue One building, some contents and property for $317,700.

Ultimately, the supervisors agreed that the facility was necessary to continue offering 24/7 emergency services in the southern end of the county.

In other business at its May 2 work session, the Page County Board of Supervisors took the following actions (briefs provided by county staff):

• Unanimously approved a Fiscal Agent Agreement with the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission for a regional broadband project that includes Page County, as well as Augusta, Clarke, Fauquier, Frederick, Rappahannock, Rockingham and Warren counties. Page County Administrator Amity Moler noted that the regional project, aimed at bringing high-speed internet access to every home in the County, is set to begin on July 1, and that the County will be notified 30 days in advance of work in a specified area. Page County will contribute $7.8 million toward the project, using American Rescue Plan Act funds as well as County funds.

• Discussed Page County’s fiscal year 2023 proposed budget, including the County’s contribution to Page County Public Schools. By consensus Supervisors agreed to wait until the Board’s May 16 meeting to adopt the County’s budget, noting that Virginia has not yet approved its next two-year budget, which includes State funding for Virginia Public Schools. Supervisors on April 18 held a public hearing on the proposed County and School budgets. The hearing drew no speakers. The fiscal year 2023 budget cycle will take effect on July 1.

• Heard a request to place a new directional sign on Route 340 for the Page County Technical Center, which is located on Middleburg Road. The new sign would help drivers locate the Tech Center, said members of the Page County Technical Center Foundation J.D. Cave and Robert Janney. They added that the Foundation hopes to eventually replace the directional sign with a larger, more permanent monumental sign paid for through donations. The off-premise sign is currently not permitted under County Code. Supervisors commended the project and by consensus asked that the Page County Planning Commission review the Code and make a recommendation for a potential amendment.

• Heard an update on Page County’s new drug court by the program’s coordinator Holly Williams. Since its inception in August 2021, 10 participants have collectively completed 1,619 hours of treatment and achieved 1,361 days of sobriety, as of March 2022. Funded by a three-year grant, Page County coordinators hope to grow the program to 25 to 30 participants. The 15-24 month drug court program offers qualifying participants a sentencing alternative of treatment and supervision. Page County is tentatively set to see its first program graduates in November 2022.

• Reviewed a Special Use Permit request from the Town of Stanley to operate a dog park on the corner of Marksville and Hawksbill Park roads, adjacent to Stanley’s Hawksbill Recreation Park and Pool. If approved, the Bailey Legacy Dog Park would utilize 3 acres of a 10.75-acre parcel currently zoned as Woodland-Conservation. Plans for the project include two fenced-in areas, parking and four dog waste stations, which would be maintained by the Town of Stanley’s public works and parks and recreation departments. The Page County Planning Commission held a public hearing on April 12, received no opposition, and unanimously recommended approval. Supervisors unanimously voted to schedule a public hearing for the request during a June 6 work session.

• Unanimously approved a $4,000 Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) request by the Shenandoah Valley Racket Ters to help market the nonprofit organization’s 2023 installment of an annual Mid-Atlantic Pre-War Swap Meet. Supervisors annually and quarterly allocate TOT funds, also known as “lodging tax” revenue, to local tourism efforts.

• Unanimously approved a Special Entertainment Permit request by the Shenandoah Valley Racket Ters for the group’s annual Mid-Atlantic Pre-War Swap Meet, scheduled for 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, May 13 and May 14 at the Luray VFW.

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