The Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors during their regular meeting this week unanimously approved the county’s Fire and Rescue/EMS Services Agreement that has been months in the making.
At the same time, a bid by private Washington attorney David Konick to be appointed by the BOS as the Board of Zoning Appeals’ representative to the county’s Planning Commission went nowhere as cautious supervisors, who Konick currently is suing for not following code, now insist on doing so when it comes to his nomination.
The fire/EMS agreement, the first since 1998, and signed by all seven fire and rescue companies in the county, states that it is “intended to further enhance the partnership that exists between the County, the Association, and the individual Volunteer Fire and Rescue Companies by providing greater clarity to the role and responsibility of each party….[and] provide a clear framework within which the County, the Association, and the Companies mutually operate to deliver timely and efficient fire, rescue, and emergency medical services to the public.”
The final version of the agreement — version 9A — had gone through rigorous review and rewrites. Fire and rescue personnel attending the BOS meeting applauded when the agreement was approved.
Even so, objections to the agreement were raised during the meeting’s public comment session.
“When does the [insurance] coverage cut in?” asked county resident and retired Virginia Beach firefighter Ron Makela. “What happens between the [volunteer’s] house and the station [if something were to happen]?”
When Jackson district supervisor Ron Frazier said that the individual companies are insured separately, Makela continued to press: “I am asking you to cover all the bases before signing this,” he said.
Kevin Williams, a Wakefield volunteer firefighter in attendance at the meeting, defended the agreement.
“We have quite a lot of talent within the volunteer fire departments,” he said. “This contract was not something we did overnight. We put a lot of time into this.”
In a phone call Tuesday, Fire Levy Board member and former chair Page Glennie said, “All those problems have already been addressed.”
Hampton supervisor and Washington VFD Vice Chair John Lesinski agreed in an email sent Tuesday, the day after the BOS meeting.
“I think the fire and rescue services agreement was the most significant action last night. The passing of the agreement was pretty benign but it represented the efforts of many in the community for a common cause and with a good outcome. It shows we can get things done despite having differing perspectives and opinions.”
Meanwhile, a number of county residents expressed support for local lawyer and BZA member Konick in his bid to be appointed as the BZA rep to the county’s Planning Commission. But his nomination hit a snag over confusion about the county code-mandated term of appointment.
Code section 170-39(C) says that Planning Commission members “shall be appointed for four years.” However, as was pointed out by BZA chair Alex Sharp during the public comment period, BZA reps to the Planning Commission have traditionally been appointed or re-appointed annually.
Frazier agreed with this assessment, saying Konick’s presence on the commission “could light a fire for completion of the [delinquent] Comprehensive Plan,” but Parrish insisted that the BOS begin to start following protocol.
Lesinski, who is currently being sued by two of Konick’s clients for allegedly violating Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act, urged complying with the code.
“This should not be a personal issue,” he said. “We have a code and have been sued because we haven’t followed the code.”
After a long debate, the BOS agreed to hear recommendations at the March meeting from County Administrator Garrey Curry and County Attorney Art Goff regarding potential approaches, including amending and clarifying the county code.
The meeting’s packed agenda also included proposals for two standing BOS committees that members and county citizens have been urging the supervisors to institute.
The BOS at its January meeting discussed the creation of a Rules Committee that would work with county staff to review sections of the County Code and make recommendations to the full Board as to proposed amendments.
At this week’s meeting the board voted unanimously to approve a proposal put forward by Frazier to create the committee and appoint Frazier and BOS chair Roger Welch to the body. The first order of business will be to review code Chapter 30, which deals with the conduct of public meetings.
Frazier also put forth a proposal to reestablish of the board’s Finance Committee.
“We still have a Finance Committee, gentleman, because the vote to abolish it was not done properly according to our own rules.” Frazier said. “So we have actually had a Finance Committee that we have been in violation of not meeting, because I can’t find anybody who wants to work [on it].”
“We as individual board members are the Finance Committee; we are responsible for the budget,” countered Stonewall-Hawthorne supervisor Chris Parrish. “In terms of the finances we concentrate on doing the budget annually.”
Frazier responded that the Finance Committee would be responsible for long-range planning.
Lesinski suggested that “there is a strong case for a [county] finance director,” referring to a 14-page memo interim county administrator Brenda Garton presented to the BOS outlining several areas of concern or opportunity for the county.
“We don’t have [a finance director] in this county,” Lesinski said. “It’s the one position that most all counties in the commonwealth have that we don’t.”
The board tabled Frazier’s proposal until the March meeting.
An unedited video of the supervisors 2 p.m. session on Monday, February 6 can be found online at rappnews.com/video, or on the newspaper’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/RappNewsPlus. The meeting agenda and related documents are online at boarddocs.com/va/corva/Board.nsf/Public.
— Luke Christopher contributed to this story