Accomack Supervisors vote to impose MOU on one fire company, postponing action on four others

November 16, 2023
Accomack County Administration Building

The Accomack County Board of Supervisors had an item on Wednesday night’s agenda concerning a Memorandum of Understanding between the County and 6 fire and rescue companies. The companies involved, Greenbackville, Oak Hall Rescue, Onancock, Painter, Parksley and Tangier all have Department of Public Service staffing paid by the County.  The MOU is intended to supersede and replace the individual Funding Agreements currently in effect with the listed companies.  However the MOU not only covers the financial relationship with the county but also addresses operational and administrative aspects of delivering fire and rescue services to the public from a combined volunteers and paid County staff.  It contains provisions regarding work, living quarters, equipment standards, training levels, response protocol, non-discrimination, incident command, complaint resolution, diversity training and more.  There are 21 regulations that would apply to each fire company that signs the MOU.

The Board is being asked to authorize County Administrator Mike Mason to enter into the MOUs with each fire or rescue service that host county paid employees at their facility.

During public comment, Adam James, an 18 year veteran of the Onancock Volunteer Fire Company said he appreciates the mutually beneficial relationship between the fire company and the county but he stated that there are a few irregularities and some things have changed from the original proposal.  He asked the Board to table the measure for 30 days.

President Darren Fussell of the Parksley Volunteer Fire Company said his company hasn’t had the opportunity to go through it and discuss it as a group.  Fussell also asked the Board to table the motion to allow the fire companies to study and provide input to make sure any MOU will be mutually beneficial to all parties concerned.

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Later on in the meeting the Chairman Crockett moved the action until after the closed session.   When the closed session ended County Administrator  Mike Mason told the Board that the catalyst for this MOU was a complaint received from a County employee stationed at the Onancock Volunteer Fire House regarding volunteer behavior and an overall hostile work environment existing at this location directed towards County staff. This complaint was investigated fully by a third party investigator and most of the allegations contained within it confirmed. The investigator recommended that, by resolution/ordinance and/or contract, the County condition a company’s continued receipt of annual County funding/support on clearly developed County (DPS) operational requirements and administrative policies governing volunteer behavior that are enforceable by County-approved volunteer company procedures. The draft MOU presented to the Board tonight was developed to embrace this recommendation.

A motion was then made to impose the recommendations on the Onancock Volunteer Company and to postpone action on Greenbackville, Parksley, Painter and Tangier Fire Companies until the December meeting.

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