BOLIVIA, NC (WWAY) — Another volunteer EMS and rescue agency is out in Brunswick County. County leaders approved their budget Monday without funding for the Coastline Volunteer Rescue Squad.
The county’s approval of the 2019-2020 budget left out funds for Leland Fire and Rescue and now Coastline Volunteer Rescue. County leaders say both cases are different. They say in Leland’s case, the town asked for too much money to fund their EMS service. In the case of Coastline, county leaders think they can do a better job responding to calls.
“Please don’t take something so valuable away from our community,” said neighbor Annette Cortes before the commission.
County commissioners heard from Coastline Rescue Chief David Robinson, former assistant chief Taryn Clemmons, and Cortes before voting on the budget.
“Last year we did over 200 transports and that was 200 transports that EMS did not have to do,” said Robinson. “They were freed up to take care of other situations in the county.”
The county alerted the rescue squad back in May that they would not renew the contract agreement that allows them to operate in the county. This led to an effort by Robinson and those who are directly serviced by the squadron to try and change the commission’s mind.
“Many times have they come in seconds to somebody’s rescue,” said Cortes. “Anything that we needed they are there for us. I want y’all to please reconsider what y’all are doing to our community.”
Commissioners did not reconsider. County leaders say the calls for service played a large role in their decision.
“It’s not that they made 25% of their calls, it’s the fact that they missed 75% of their calls,” said commission vice chair Randy Thompson. “We appreciate the service that Coastline has provided for the last 42 years.”
Commissioner Thompson applauded the squadron for their work in the past, but says the county is growing and volunteer agencies like Coastline are going in a different direction.
“In my tenure as the Emergency Services director I worked directly with Coastline,” said Thompson. “I know the value. I also know how difficult it is to maintain a volunteer operation.”
Coastline crew members say that volunteer aspect of the operation set the groundwork for EMS services in the county and continues to save taxpayer dollars. Robinson says the county annually provided the squadron with $36,000 to operate with. The remaining funds they gathered through fundraising and gifts.
“It’s a vital cost to the community because our costs are lower and we’re not charging the taxpayers,” said former assistant chief Taryn Clemmons.
The county will turn that funding over to the new budget as it increases the EMS fund by roughly $1.4 million.
“We are not changing our level of service, we are not decreasing our level of service, we are trying to improve our level of service,” said EMS deputy director Lyle Johnston.
Now with no funding, all the squadron can do is try to fight for keeping the agreement.
“If it comes without funding we’ll continue to do that one way or another,” said Robinson. “The main thing is we have to keep a franchise in order to do that.”
Johnston says the county will replace outdated EMS units with five new ambulances. This will added to the ambulances that the county could purchase from Leland EMS according to their separate agreement.
According to Robinson, the squadron will end operating in the county on July 20th if no new agreement is reached.