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Mecklenburg County picks up tab for volunteers’ insurance / March 07, 2018

Line of duty insurance premiums for local firefighters and emergency services personnel will be paid by Mecklenburg County government under a proposal worked out with the Virginia Association of Counties Risk Pool.

The announcement was made Thursday night by County Administrator Wayne Carter at the annual dinner for the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors, hosted by the Mecklenburg County Fire Chief’s Association. This year’s dinner took place at the Lake Gaston Fire Department in Bracey.

Until now, each of the county’s eight fire departments and four rescue squads serving Mecklenburg County have been responsible for insuring their volunteers against accident and disability. Fire departments include Boydton, Buckhorn, Chase City, Clarksville, La Crosse, Lake Gaston, Palmer Springs, and South Hill. Rescue squads include the Boydton, Chase City, Clarksville (Mecklenburg Rescue and Lifesaving) and South Hill (Southside Rescue) units.

Collectively, the premiums for line of duty insurance cost these groups nearly $200,000 in the past year.

Working through VACORP, Carter said firefighters and medics, for the most part, will receive the same or better coverage at a total cost of slightly more than $151,000. Even better, the county, not the emergency service agencies, will pay the premiums. Carter said funding for the insurance will be part of the Board of Supervisors’ FY 2019 budget.

The coverage pays $100,000 in case of death, $500 per week for disability, and $250,000 for medical expenses. Currently, the departments pay anywhere from $30,000 to $200,000 in death benefits, $400 to $950 per week for disability, and $25,000 to $150,000 in medical expenses.

South Hill, which currently pays $200,000 for accidental death and $950 per week for disability coverage, could pay an additional premium to maintain its current level of coverage. That would be above the premiums assumed by the county. The same is true for Clarksville, which currently pays $700 in disability coverage for its firefighters. The other departments will see their benefits increased.

John Zubrod with the Lake Gaston Fire Department said the county plan will save his department nearly $9,000 per year in premiums — money that can be spent on equipment or training, he emphasized. Zubrod said the assistance could mean one less fund raiser that firefighters must organize after already giving so much of their time and energy on behalf the community that the department serves.

Jon Taylor, the county’s Emergency Services Coordinator, received thanks and praise at the dinner for a pending radio system upgrade. The Board of Supervisors voted at their February meeting to spend nearly $1 million on a new radio system which Taylor hopes to have up and running by July 1. With enhanced communications equipment, local departments will be able to communicate with each other directly, and not worry about lost signals or dropped service.

This past year, according to Lake Gaston Fire Chief Rick Elmore, volunteer firefighters responded to 2,246 calls, and developed and implemented new standards and protocols for issues they could face, including rapid intervention and mass casualty circumstances.

Before ending the dinner, each fire chief or a representative was asked to recount department highlights from the past year. South Hill highlighted their new ladder truck, Lake Gaston pointed to the newly upgraded station, and Mark Parrish of Boydton and C.W. Carter of Chase City spoke of the history of their respective departments. The Boydton Volunteer Fire Department was formed in 1929, but Chase City began much earlier, in 1897. Larry Clark of Palmer Springs, speaking for the other fire chiefs in attendance, thanked the supervisors for their support.

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