Amid significant cost-cutting measures undertaken by the Garland Board of Commissioners earlier this year in order to put the financial pieces back together again, a $1,700 annual allocation to the Garland Rescue Squad for diesel fuel expense went by the wayside — the rescue squad is asking that it be reinstated.
Years ago, the town’s board fully reimbursed the volunteer squad for its fuel expenses. That changed in 2008, when the amount was modified to a flat $1,700 allocation. This year, the allocation was wiped away completely. Garland Rescue officials have asked the town to reconsider, sending a letter that Mayor Winifred read to commissioners at Tuesday’s regular meeting.
“On behalf of the Garland EMS, we are requesting support from the town of Garland to help with our diesel fuel expense,” the letter states. “Before June 30, 2008, the town of Garland supplied us with all of our fuel. On July 1, 2008, the town stopped supplying our fuel and agreed to give us $1,700 annually for this expense. Recently, we have learned we will no longer be receiving this amount or any.
“We are a volunteer squad and depend on the assistance we receive from the county, town and local donations. With the rise in costs, we need all the help we can get to continue to serve our community with emergency services,” the letter continued. “We are requesting that the town reconsider to continue to support us and would like to thank you for your past and present support in this matter.
The letter was signed by Adela Blackburn, Charles “Buck” Carter and Brenda Tyndall. Attached to it was a synopsis of the June 10, 2008 Garland Board of Commissioners regular meeting, at which the Garland Fire Department was incorporated. The minutes read that the town would continue to donate the same amount — $1,700 — yearly for the rescue squad’s fuel from then on.
Murphy said recent bookkeeping has confirmed as much.
“According to our auditing, $1,700 was paid in 2009, 2010 and in 2011,” said Murphy. “This is the only year that we did not. Whenever we were cutting expenditures, that was one of the amounts we reduced from the budget back in March.”
In considering the request, commissioners asked if there was anything that could be done.
“I sure want them to have plenty of fuel when they come pick me up,” said Commissioner Matthew Register, who along with Commissioner Ralph Smith asked whether there was any way to assist the squad or reinstate a portion of the fee.
“Do we have anywhere we can pull the money?” asked Smith.
“Not right now,” Murphy answered.
She said the town called around to see what other local municipalities were doing in that regard, finding out that Roseboro donated $2,500 to its squad, Salemburg gave $500 to the Roseboro squad and Turkey did not currently have such a line item. Sampson County’s budget allocation to the Garland Rescue Squad for this year is $26,717, the mayor noted.
“So we need a little bit more information,” said Murphy. “I’m recommending that we maybe table this until later on in the year so we can see what our budget looks like. Even though we have a budget amount of $444,000 (for revenues), we don’t know if we’re going to actually receive that full amount. At this time, I’d recommend we hold off on this decision until later in the year.”
The $1,700 amount was always paid at the end of June each year, she noted. The payment that would have been made in June 2012, for the 2011-12 year, was cut by the Board of Commissioners amid expenditure slashing earlier this year.
“They were paid for the fiscal year ending 2009, for the fiscal year ending 2010, for the fiscal year ending 2011, but not for the fiscal year that just ended. It was not something that was paid up front this early in the year,” said Murphy, who noted that the financial statements of the rescue squad could even be requested “to see what their finances are looking like.”
Smith made the motion that the matter be tabled “until we do a little more research and see what we come up with,” which was seconded by Register. “We will continue to research and try to find out what other towns are doing, and maybe we can see what our particular budget looks like,” said Murphy.
Smith said it was not necessarily about what others were doing, but merely weighing what current town board members wished to do taking into account the town’s specific financial situation.
“It’s not a matter of what other towns do, it’s what this town and other boards have promised to do,” said Smith. “It’s a matter of whether we want to continue what the boards have done over the years or not.”
“And whether this particular town can afford to do it,” Murphy added.
“Right, and I’m sort of like Register,” said Smith, “I want them to have fuel when they come pick me up.”
The motion to research the matter and discuss it further at a later date was unanimously approved.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.