MINERAL, Va. (WRIC) — A local rescue squad is in danger of shutting down. This comes after Louisa County board members voted to defund the Mineral Volunteer Rescue Squad earlier this week.
A majority of board members voted to pull the plug on the rescue station’s funding on Monday night, taking away allotted tax dollars. Despite adversity, the rescue chief, Scot Newton, tells 8News that he’s put his blood, sweat and tears into rebuilding the station and it won’t survive much longer without county funding.
“The station is starting to come alive again,” he said.
Newton has worked hard over the last four years as chief to change the Mineral Rescue Squad’s facility and reputation. He and his team have re-branded the station with logos reading “neighbors helping neighbors,” built a supply closet for some emergency equipment, and refurbished the facility with new flooring, beds, painting, etc., and corrected previously mishandled paperwork like tax information.
In 2016, the former chief, Winston Evatt, was arrested and convicted for embezzling $13,000 and in 2019 a car slammed into the small town station damaging vital equipment. After four long years of fixing an “inherited mess,” Newton was finally optimistic about the station’s future until Monday night.
In a 6-1 vote, the Louisa County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution to defund the volunteer rescue station. The decision is effective immediately, cutting off money for the remainder of 2021 and all of 2022.
“We aren’t asking for steak dinners every night,” Newton said. “We’re asking for what we need to maintain our vehicles and maintain the station that we are trying to desperately rebuild.”
Operating since the ’70s, Chief Newton told 8News their station is in danger of shutting down. He said they will take calls as long as they’re able to, but they’ll be lucky if they make it to October. The station is considering fundraising and possibly grants to keep them afloat, however, Newton says both are regulated.
Newton added they heavily rely on tax dollars to upkeep their station, emergency vehicles and equipment and administrative requirements.
“We’re not asking them for anything other than what we need to function,” Newton said.
In 2021, the Mineral Volunteer Rescue Squad was allotted $51,000, which has now been dissolved. Board Supervisor Duane Adams, representing Mineral’s district, introduced the resolution.
“Mineral Rescue for the last several years has had difficulty marking up duty crews and being able to provide consistent emergency services to Mineral residents,” Adams said.
Citing inconsistent responses and lack of volunteers, Adams tells 8News he is hoping the sudden suspension will allow the station to regroup on its own. But, Chief Newton doesn’t agree. He says his crew responded to over 80 calls last year, during a pandemic, when resources were tight. He also says over the years, he has increased his volunteer staff from three to now eleven members.
8News has asked Adams if he took the impact of COVID-19 into consideration when making a decision and he said he doesn’t think COVID had any impact on rescue operations.
“They’re frustrated and aggravated,” Newton said. “To just push the hard work to the wayside–it’s disheartening.”
Newton said he believes the decision to defund their agency has to do with the construction of the New Bridge Fire and Rescue station. Also Newton says he was approached by Adams to merge his team with the local fire station, however the two agencies agreed not to.
“Since we did not agree with the merger, Duane Adams was not happy with that decision because of the goal of what that New Bridge Station is,” Newton said. “I’m not here for the politics side of it. I care about trucks being staffed and getting to calls.”
Adams responded saying it does not have any impact and that Mineral station volunteers are more than welcome to give their time to another station. Adams also says the decision to defund is not a decision to dissolve Newton’s rescue squad.
Adams says he is willing to come to the table and talk with Newton about future funding in the next few years. Newton says he welcomes that if they survive until then.