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SHVFD gets quick approval of request / June 30, 2021
After weeks of controversy, it took less than five minutes for South Hill Town Council to approve a request by the South Hill Volunteer Fire Department to install fitness equipment in an unused kitchen space.

The 7-0 vote by Council took place during a special called meeting on Friday. Council member Joseph Taylor was not present, having previously scheduled an out-of-town family trip prior to receiving notice of the meeting.

The vote ended weeks of back-and-forth discussions on the request, some of them heated, attracting criticism from some who said the holdup showed a lack of support for the town’s firefighters.

The debate over whether to allow the SHVFD to convert an unused kitchen space into a gym for use by fire volunteers came to a head during the June meeting of Town Council. At that meeting, a majority of Council withheld its support for the project until the space was reviewed by members of the town’s fire committee.

SHVFD Fire Chief Michael Vaughan sent a formal request to convert the second floor kitchen space into a fitness room to Town Manager Kim Callis on May 18. As part of the request, Vaughan explained that the department was not seeking money for the project, only Council authorization to install the equipment. The fire station building is owned by the Town of South Hill.

Money bequeathed to the department by long-time members Carolyn and Jack Rainey, would be used to pay for the equipment and supplies, Vaughan said. He ssaid that the gym facility would “greatly improve firefighter health and safety” and “better align with current NFPA standards on Firefighter Fitness & Health.”

Callis passed the request on Council members for consideration.

Lillie Feggins-Boone, chair of Council’s fire committee, said she had not had the opportunity to review the space to see if there were any structural concerns or other issues associated with the plan. That was the reason she gave at the June 14 Council meeting for not giving the go-ahead for the project.

After speaking with Vaughan and touring the site a week later, Feggins-Boone announced her full support for the request, as did fellow fire committee member Delores Luster. A third member of the committee, Shep Moss, was in support of the project from the outset. He and Gavin Honeycutt were the only two members of Council who initially voted to approve the gym back on June 14.

Moss first expressed support for the fitness facility following an earlier April 30 meeting of the fire committee that took place at the fire station. It was at that meeting that Vaughan originally discussed the former kitchen space and described its planned use. He also pointed to the space that was less than 50 feet from where the members of the fire committee were seated.

Vaughan garnered the support of Feggins-Boone and Luster after explaining the circumstances that led volunteers to seek approval for a gym at the fire station and after giving them a tour of the space.

He said the kitchen was removed by fire department volunteers in March after a fire suppression system failed and dumped toxic chemicals in the room. According to Vaughan, it would have cost the town or the fire department more than $60,000 to replace the kitchen, which was not needed since 2011 when the SHVFD converted one of its truck bays on the first floor into a commercial kitchen.

Vaughan said firefighters felt they could not justify the expense of replacing the kitchen, especially since the department already has a commercial kitchen. Instead, SHVFD members voted to use the funds bequeathed to the fire department by the Raineys to cover the cost of installing a fitness room at the station.

With the recommendation of the fire committee secured, other members of Council gave their support to the project at the brief meeting on Friday.

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Now kick everyone out of office and get that Callis FIRED! This is all about a pissed off EX-Chief. By the way did they ever rule BRIANS as ARSON? Just curious.

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