COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE
Volunteer Fire Rescue Building Maintenance Funding
Policy to address funding for volunteer fire rescue building maintenance and minor renovations.
Tucker, Foley, Davis, Eggleston
LEGAL REVIEW: Yes
September 7, 2005
ACTION: X INFORMATION:
Over the past two to three years, staff has worked with the Albemarle County Fire Rescue Advisory Board (ACFRAB) to develop ways to support the volunteer fire rescue system through increased operational and capital funding. A primary objective in increasing financial support was to decrease the amount of fundraising necessary by volunteers so volunteer staff could focus the majority of their time on running emergency calls and completing necessary training. These efforts resulted in the County agreeing to pay 100% of an approved set of basic operating expenses, forgiving 100% of all outstanding debt of the volunteer stations and agreeing to pay 100% of the capital needs of the stations for emergency apparatus through the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).
One item not included in these improved funding initiatives was a commitment to provide for the maintenance of volunteer buildings, beyond paying for regular minor maintenance costs as a part of the operating formula. Rather than the County committing to these items, discussion centered around focused fundraisers to help maintain an adequate “Building Fund” that could be used to take care of building maintenance and minor renovations. Many of the volunteer stations indicated that they still wanted to do some fundraising because it has been an important part of the tradition of volunteer fire rescue. The County’s assistance would allow fundraisers to focus on building needs rather than “paying the light bill” or to pay for an essential fire engine or ambulance. Staff recognized that there may be times when some assistance would be requested and suggested that those items be considered only on a case by case basis. However, the basic principle was that the maintenance and care of buildings would be the responsibility of the volunteer stations and they would be much better able to address these needs with operating and other capital needs being paid for by the County. All of this is reflected in the attached Department of Fire Rescue “Standard Administrative Policy” (SAP) approved by the ACFRAB on December 1, 2003 (Attachment C).
Goal 3.1: Make the county a safe and healthy community in which citizens feel secure to live, work and play.
During the FY05-06 budget process, Stony Point Volunteer Fire Department submitted a budget request for approximately $350,000 in building maintenance, renovation and other projects. (Attachment B). Because of the language in the “SAP” and the fact that this list did not contain typical Capital Improvement items, staff provided this request to the Board for separate consideration during the budget work sessions. Upon review, the Board requested that staff develop a policy for the Board’s consideration that would address how requests of this type could be handled when it appeared the station may not have the ability to raise necessary funds to address building maintenance and minor renovations in a timely manner. The attached policy (Attachment A) was developed by staff and reviewed with the Chairman of ACFRAB and Supervisor Wyant. In addition, staff also briefly reviewed the concepts of the proposed policy with the Advisory Board at their most recent meeting.
As staff has indicated, the current “SAP” does not address funding for volunteer station building maintenance needs for those stations that are in financial hardship. The attached policy is based in part on a grant program established by the
State Office of EMS (OEMS) which provides assistance to volunteer stations for the purchase of capital items. In addition to extensive justification requirements, the OEMS requires applicants to disclose their financial information (income statement and balance sheet) to help determine need. The attached policy uses a similar approach to determine financial hardship and also proposes that a five year maintenance plan and a financial plan be developed with staff. The financial plan requires a payback over 5-10 years, but would fund qualified improvements with a 0% interest loan. The program also allows for grants that would not require repayment depending on particularly difficult circumstances. It is important to note that the policy proposes that these projects meet typical County requirements for review, procurement, and planning. The entire process would follow timelines that are coordinated with the normal County budget process, as is noted in the policy.
Regarding the proposal that completion of projects would need to follow typical County policy and procedures, staff believes this is necessary to ensure County accountability for the use of taxpayer funds. If the County were to replace the roof on a volunteer station, as an example, some evaluation of the proposed type of roof and its useful life would be important in making this investment. While its possible that a volunteer station may feel that the type of roof replacement is their decision and not the County’s, staff believes that accountability for the use of tax dollars and return on investment (ROI) for the use of these funds are important principles in establishing a new policy such as this.
Finally, staff believes that the entire funding of the volunteer system as outlined in the “SAP” needs to be formalized by the Board of Supervisors through adoption of a County funding policy. Staff believes approval is necessary because it places requirements on the volunteer system that need endorsement by the Board to clarify the County’s expectations regarding financial planning and the use of capital and operating funds.
The budget impact of funding Stony Point’s entire request is $350,000. However, based on the proposed policy, the budget impact could not be fully determined without an evaluation of Stony Point’s needs through the process outlined in the policy. In addition, if the Board chooses to adopt the proposed policy, requests from other stations may be made in the future. Finally, adoption of this policy will require additional staff time from Fire Rescue, General Services and the Office of Management and Budget, due to the evaluation needed as a component of the policy.
Staff recommends adoption of the attached volunteer building maintenance policy based on a determination of financial hardship.
Volunteer Building and Renovation Policy
Stony Point Capital Request
Return to regular agenda