Richie Burke has enormous shoes to fill

Supervisors face daunting task of replacing county ‘workhorse’

Rappahannock County supervisors have their work cut out for them in filling three government posts that for decades have been handled by one dedicated official, Richie Burke.

“We’ve got a problem,” Supervisor Chris Parrish is the first to admit. “Naturally it’s going to cost the taxpayers more.”

Burke stunned everybody inside and outside the county government last week when he abruptly announced his retirement effective June 1. Those closest to Burke had been under the assumption he wouldn’t retire until 2018 at the earliest.

Speaking with this reporter in his office on Monday, Burke himself advised against filling his three posts — building official, emergency services coordinator, and emergency 911 coordinator — with one individual, although it is unlikely such a person exists with Burke’s intimate knowledge of the county.

Just one wall of Richie Burke’s office reflects the extensive training and accomplishments of the longtime Rappahannock County official. Photo by John McCaslin

To get a better grasp of the official tasks Burke performs on a daily basis we turn to the “2017/18 Emergency Services, Building & E911 Office Duties” sheet updated in advance of the FY18 budget negotiations.

As spelled out by Burke, building office duties (and updated results and figures from previous reports) include:

— Process applications, perform plan review approval process. For 2015 there were 353 total permits issued, reviewed 152 sets of plans, had 1224 scheduled inspections and 107 consultations.

— 2015 total construction cost $28,936,213.03.

— Administer the E&S Program (erosion and sediment control) out of this office as required by law; the E&S inspector must visit each construction site at the minimum of once every 2 weeks.

— Maintain training updates for inspectors as required by law to retain their certifications in their respective field and also maintain my certification as a Certified Building Official & Professional Codes Administrator as required by Virginia law.

Currently, as county building official, Burke handles the majority of the office’s workload. The county supplies him with a paid secretary, as well as one part-time building inspector and one part-time E&S inspector, who each average 16 hours per week. Both of these part-time inspectors have no county benefits.

The county also equips the building office with two vehicles — a 2002 Ford Explorer with at least 117 thousand miles used for building inspections; and a 2006 Ford Escape with at least 128 thousand miles for E&S inspections.

In addition, Burke oversees the emergency 911 coordination office, which requires:

— Maintain a complete database of 5,800 addresses of all county phones, with digital pictures for all 911 computer mapping for dispatch. Do a bi-weekly download from phone company so database is current and correct. Send updates to CodeRed for the warning system database.

— Maintain and update GIS Mapping in the 911 computer CAD system for dispatcher, print maps for all first responders. Supply mapping data for RCSO [Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office] and County Attorney as needed.

— Maintain the E-911 computers, phone system and servers relocated in RCSO office server room.

— Process applications for the new addresses, measure distances in the field to issue new address. Do physical sign install in the field saving over $5 thousand instead of using a sign contractor.

— Apply for grants from VITA for E-911 & Dispatch for upgrading equipment with little cost to the county. Just finished oversight of the install of a $45,000 voice recorder upgrade grant for the RCSO of their obsolete recorder for VITA grant we wrote. Without this grant this would have been all local [taxpayer] monies for replacement.

(As this newspaper reported last week, Rappahannock County is scheduled to receive on July 1 a $150,000 state grant steered by Burke to the county in order to create a new 911 mapping system).

Besides Burke, the E-911 staff includes one part-time deputy coordinator who averages 20 hours per week. Total hours for the two positions have not exceeded the hours budgeted, Burke points out.

As for the E-911 vehicle, it is a retired Rappahannock Sheriff’s Office Ford pickup truck used for addressing and installing signage. The truck holds a specialty measuring device and tools for signage installation.

Perhaps Burke’s biggest responsibility is when wearing the hat of county emergency services coordinator, albeit the job is 24/7. Among other responsibilities he has maintained the county’s emergency operations plan, updating it for review every five years as required by federal and state laws. In addition Burke has submitted annual LCAR (Local Capability Assessment Reports) as is also required by law.

He also reviews school emergency plans with the county’s school administrators and the sheriff’s office.

Burke’s other responsibilities as emergency services coordinator:

— Responds to all local emergencies, updates county administrator and board chairmen if local emergency declaration is needed and implement operations plan. Also reports to the state on WebEoc [emergency operations center] for emergency updates, reports and resource requests.

— Public Safety Committee [PSC] member (since its inception Burke was PSC manager, but managerial responsibilities were recently turned over to county supervisor John Lesinski).

— Liaison to Fire & Rescue, respond to those major emergency calls where I may assist with incident command, accountability and requesting state resources.

— Budget, schedule and maintain National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) annual testing record for County Fire & Rescue truck pumps, hose, ladders, and breathing apparatus flow testing to reduce the county’s liability. Also maintain the county’s three automatic defibrillators and countywide defibrillators contract for Fire & Rescue, RCSO, and schools.

— Track and see that all Fire & Rescue and county officials retain and maintain their FEMA and NIMS (National Incident Management System) standard for the Incident Command System in conjunction with federal law and do reporting.

— Maintain staff and track volunteer staff training current with state and FEMA training standards with an annual survey of volunteer staffing, including age, training levels and numbers of members.

— Maintain and manage the county’s CodeRed warning system and County Courthouse/911 complex emergency generators and contracts.

Also, as Rappahannock’s radio manager, Burke maintains and services the county’s 800 MHz radio equipment for both the county’s volunteer fire & rescue departments and the sheriff’s office. The value of the equipment alone is estimated at $700,000.

Burke also computer programs all new radios coming into the Rappahannock system, as well as for the school system’s 800 MHz system.

Indeed, as supervisor Parrish pointed out recently, Burke has “poured his heart and soul” into “3 to 5 jobs” for 27 years.

In setting out to replace Burke, the county in the coming days will likely advertise for two government positions: building official, and emergency services/emergency 911 coordinator.

Virginia’s Residential Code, Section 105.1, states: “The building official shall have at least five years of building experience as a licensed professional engineer or architect; building, fire or trade inspector; contractor, housing inspector or superintendent of building; fire or trade construction; or at least five years of building experience after obtaining a degree in architecture or engineering. . . . ”

Applicants for the new emergency services/emergency 911 coordinator post will likely know about GIS mapping, FEMA training, and testing fire equipment. Whether they like Burke have the skills to service the county’s 800 MHz radio equipment and repair the county’s emergency generators remains to be seen.

About John McCaslin 448 Articles
John McCaslin is the editor of the Rappahannock News. Email him at

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