Committee Recommends Taxpayer-Funded Rescue Squad

A city committee has recommended the creation of a publicly-funded rescue squad, Henry Graff reports for NBC-29. The topic has become a bit of a political football since city leaders indicated their support for creating the new department back in April by way of a $1M budget addition. The city feels that the response times by Charlottesville-Albemarle Rescue Squad (CARS), the busiest rescue squad in the nation, are “unacceptable.” Committee chair Del. David Toscano cited response times to southwest C’ville as being most in need of improvement, and by “improvement” he means “replacement.”

CARS is a volunteer, non-profit community organization whose supporters aren’t happy to city criticized by the city, who doesn’t contribute financially to it but benefits enormously from it. My analysis of response times shows that things look pretty good. CARS publishes all of their response data to the web in real-time, making it possible for anybody to analyze their response times. The city’s own fire department — which would house the new city rescue squad — does not do so.

The new service, if approved by Council, would start up in just two months.

10/29 Update: A source at City Hall tells me that there were three primary partners on this task force — CARS, the city FD and the county FD — and both CARS and county FD voted against the final recommendation. This seems like a bad sign.

38 Responses to “Committee Recommends Taxpayer-Funded Rescue Squad”


  • What do you think the news story is leaving out? I have a lot of respect for the people on that committee so I am leary of questioning their judgment. I also dont think it was the politically expedient thing to do- establish a second EMS in this town (or third)- so what is it that the public is not getting in terms of information? I just dont believe the City will get to the SW part of town any quicker than CARS since all stations are far away from that area. I guess if you dont believe that, it is more likely you disagree with the committee’s decision. I wish the information was more publicly available so that I could have more confidence in the decision. Then again- who am I?

  • Whats the difference between a “Task Force” and a “Committee” with regards to these groups involved with City issues?

    Because at this point I’m of the opinion that both are just rubber stamps designed to give the City Council the excuse they want to take the action they’ve already decided they would prefer.

    If there is a legitimate issue with response times on the southern part of town then wouldn’t it be better just to help CARS put in a satellite RS location? With Biscuit Run on the horizon- perhaps that’s something that should’ve been covered with that.

    If the city wants an additional drain on the budget, I’d recommend to CARS that with the start of a City funded R.S. they cease all service to the city and work strictly in the county.

  • I always contribute to CARS every year (I used to run on a volunteer squad in Highland County). You know what I like about that? I get to choose to contribute.

    Tax dollars aren’t a choice.

    I realize this isn’t the only angle to this, but others have covered the other angles pretty well…

  • Just more senseless duplication — probably made possible by the $14 million paid to the City by the County to stop annexation. What have they done with the millions and millions they’ve received over the years from the County?

    All these little fiefdoms around here need to be consolidated. We don’t have the scale to support all this fragmentation. WE don’t have the scale to support much.

  • The city fire department is essentially a paid wing of the Charlottesville Democratic Party. They’ve been assisting local Democrats to get elected (including David Toscano) for years, by working behind the scenes and by giving rides on election day. In return, City Council gives them virtually anything they ask for.

    This is just a reflection of the corruption in Charlottesville city government. Did anyone besides “Jennifer” think that this committee would come back with anything else?

    Vote Kleeman and Haskins. Throw the crooks out.

  • It does appear to me that Chief Werner is indeed trying to create a fiefdom. This million dollars would better be used to give raises to firefighters and cops so they might be able to afford to live in the City. CARS has been able to cover everything to date and have a large base of volunteers mainly due to UVA. Many members are premeds or nursing students.

  • The city fire department is essentially a paid wing of the Charlottesville Democratic Party. They’ve been assisting local Democrats to get elected (including David Toscano) for years, by working behind the scenes and by giving rides on election day. In return, City Council gives them virtually anything they ask for.

    I’ve spent some quality time “behind the scenes” of the Charlottesville Democratic Party, and I can assure you that nothing even vaguely like this is true. There’s not even anything kinda like that that’s true, so I can’t say “well, I could see how you might think that, what with…” Your assertion simply has no basis in — or connection to — fact.

  • Would the new rescue squad be free to citizens as CARS is? CARS often serves the poorest members of the C’ville/Albemarle community who sometimes have no other way to get to the hospital. I’d hate for people to think they had to forgo emergency healthcare because they’re worried calling an ambulance will cost them a lot of money. I’m leery of this city committee.

  • Sonja:They’ve been assisting local Democrats to get elected (including David Toscano) for years, by working behind the scenes and by giving rides on election day

    WALDO: Your assertion simply has no basis in — or connection to — fact.

    Well, who is right? Only one of them is.

  • How can anyone have faith in a committee appointed in secret and meeting in secret? Who on this committee knows anything about program evaluation? David Toscano doesn’t. He’s a lawyer and politician.
    Actually, it was brought out in Council’s discussions, that each call will costs over $400; the client will be billed; those who can not pay will be written off, others may submit the bill to their insurance companies which may or may not pay all. It is hoped that this system will raise $600,000 annually. Is this a well thought out plan for funding or isn’t it?
    Do not forget, this $1 million dollars is just seed money. New annual budget items will include maintenance, vehicle replacement and training.
    Talking about the expertise of this committee: how is placing an ambulance on Ridge Street going to improve the response time to Sunset Avenue significantly? Oh, that’s right, they also have plans for a Fontaine station. I don’t know about the fire department as a whole, but, my neighbor, a fireman goes about the neighborhood every four years and ask us to vote for whomever is the Dem party’s candidate. He doesn’t do it in uniform, though. Three firemen approached me in the last election to vote for Taliaferro, but I don’t know if they do that kind of thing regularly. I do hear in City Hall employees whisper, every time a Republican runs for Council, that he will cut staff and vote against raises.

  • CARS does fine, they are creating a redundant service. I work in Richmond, and deal with their “professional” rescue squad service all the time. CARS does a much better job, because they have people who actually want to be there, helping others, instead of former fast food restaurant employees who took an EMT course making 12 bucks an hour…..which is all you get with “professional” rescue squad.

  • I agree with Cville Eye on this thread.

    I would not go, as far as to say, “The city fire department is essentially a paid wing of the Charlottesville Democratic Party.”

    But it is logical that any political party that is an entrenched power will collect public servant special interest groups.

    These folks are simply looking out for what is good for them, their jobs, better pay, whatnot. Now of course is this always good for the public, in this instance I say not.

    I wish that those in power had stood up to their special interest groups.

  • Sonja,

    I spent 2 years as a Vice Chairman of the Charlottesville Democratic party and what you are saying is total lie. There is no organized relationship between the FD and the Cville Democrats. In years of helping with and occasionally running various parts of the GOTV operation, I never once heard a word about the FD.

    Are there party volunteers who also happen to be firefighters? Probably. But we’re talking about a city that went something like 70% for John Kerry in 2004. The vast majority of people in Charlottesville are Democrats. Name any business or government agency or neighborhood in Charlottesville and most of the people in it are probably Democrats. There’s just way more of us then there are Republicans.

    Yeah, it’s a big conspiracy of a super majority of city residents where they all vote for candidates from their own party. And then the Council has this conspiracy where they all agree to fund an operation to put out fires in the city. How very sinister it all is.

    As far as the rescue squad is concerned, the city should just take half the money it would take to start a new organization and donate it to the existing volunteer squad. We’d get a lot more bang for the buck. I don’t see the reason for creating a whole new redundant bureaucracy when there is already something very effective happening which just needs a little more financial support.

  • Three firemen approached me in the last election to vote for Taliaferro, but I don’t know if they do that kind of thing regularly. I do hear in City Hall employees whisper, every time a Republican runs for Council, that he will cut staff and vote against raises.

    Julian Taliaferro, being a career firefighter, had friends helping with his campaign and, understandably, some of those friends were firefighters. But that’s a matter of his personal relationship with them, not the party. I’m not sure anybody knew Taliaferro was a Democrat until he decided to run.

    But you’re quite right about bureaucrats (and I use that term without malice) supporting incumbents. That’s just how it goes the world ’round. Things have to be pretty bad before they’re interested in regime change.

  • I prefer to read Sonja’s statement as hyperbole. Not literally true (we won’t find pay stubbs from the Democratic Party) but, due to the entrenched bureaucracy, ESSENTIALLY true.

    Especially if we end up with another rescue squad…

    Is it on anybody’s radar that the city is sending FIVE people to Italy soon: David Brown, Kendra Hamilton, Rosa Atkins, Gertrude Ivory, and Alvin Edwards?

    Three of the five might not even be in office by the time they go….

  • What are they going to Italy for? T

  • Didnt Taliaferro used to be the cheif?

  • You don’t think we have so many sister cities because we actually care about those strangers, do you, ducktroller?
    The anecdotal rationale that both Taliaferro and Fire Chief Werner uses for the new city-funded rescue squad is the outrageously long response time of over a half hour in CARS history. It took CARS president, Mr. Claytor, to fill in the details. It seems the delay was caused by the fact that when the squad arrived at Garrett Square, the stabbing victim could not be found by the squad, police or firemen. When he voluntarily showed up, he was taken promptly to the emergency room. All of the elapsed time was included in the response time calculation. Notice this incident did not happen in the southwestern sector of the City, but rather a mile from the squad’s headquarters. Yet, they keep telling this story.Here’s a good take on the new rescue squad proposal.

  • To evalutae sister-city candidates throughout Tuscany?

  • I don’t know what the point of the trip is. The subject hasn’t been discussed at a school board meeting. A student exchange program? Kinda weird, given that we don’t teach Italian (guess it should be Besancon for French, or we need a new sister city in Spain or Latin America). Wouldn’t you think we’d talk about any future education initiative BEFORE we buy plane tickets?

    As for why the Brown and Hamilton are going: ??? Kendra’s a lame duck. Only reason to send her is so that she gets a trip. Would’ve thought she might donate the funds to at-risk kids for a membership at the new YMCA…

  • Cville, that is an interesting story. By the way where are the official numbers to back up the supposed need for this boondoggle?

  • http://warhammer.mcc.virginia.edu/rids/rids.php ( cut and paste). I got this from the link above in Waldo’s initial post connected to “My analysis of response times shows that things look pretty good.” Interesting aritcle connected to that link. It’s funny how supposedly intelligent people usually turn a blink eye to our government’s workings and assume they are making the best decisions. This has been one of the most ridiculous decision-making processes employed that I have seen anywhere. I would not be surprised if this secret committee did not look at any data.
    I imagine down the road when this program needs more money, and it will, they will graciously and conveniently add the fee to the caller’s real estate tax bill.

  • quote, Waldo / “I’m not sure anybody knew Taliaferro was a Democrat until he decided to run.”

    There’s a lot of people who aren’t Democrats UNTIL they decide to run for an elected position in the City of Charlottesville. This is a well known fact. To win in the city you have to put on a Democratic face.

  • Re: foreign trips at taxpayer expense. I stumbled onto this interesting site a while back and thought I would share considering the subject at hand. http://www.charlottesville-besancon.com/index.html

    I would agree that the statement “The city fire department is essentially a paid wing of the Charlottesville Democratic Party” is a bit hyperbolic, but there are an awful lot of questionable and very expensive things done in this town at taxpayer expense.

    Really, why on earth does Kendra Hamilton need to have a holiday in Italy at my expense? So she brought some “diversity” to council, but other than that, she did less than the equally “diverse” Rob Schilling.

    I would be glad to send the mayor off to Italy though, as long as he promised not to come back. That would certainly be a bargain compared to shelling out a load for the Water Street competition and still having him around. $153,000 certainly would have made a nice donation to CARS, but we got nothing for it instead.

  • “As far as the rescue squad is concerned, the city should just take half the money it would take to start a new organization and donate it to the existing volunteer squad.”

    Amen to this, Jackson.

  • ducktroller,
    you must be mistaken………..as a teacher at CHS I will tell you we are basically in crisis mode…….there is no way our Superintendent, Assistant Super. and School board chair would go to Italy on the school dime. We are being told daily there is no money for this or that………..I have even been told funds are frozen in some cases………This just doesn’t make sense and is actually disheartening……….
    Also, if it is for a student exchange……why are the people who are going people who don’t work with students?

  • ‘fraid so, Fred. You may be trying to help form a PTO at CHS to raise money to pay for the many things we don’t have cash in the $61 million dollar budget to pay for (e.g. incentives–i.e. fast food coupons–to get kids to tutoring sessions so that they can study the questions they missed to pass the SOLs), but you’ll be happy to know that there IS enough money to send three people to Italy. (And if there isn’t, maybe the new PTO can raise money to pay for this trip, too!)

    Seriously, I’m sure there MUST be a goal in the strategic plan to expand foreign language offerings. Otherwise, they’d never ask, and the School Board would never approve it. (Whoops! I just looked: nothing about foreign exchanges or foreign languages or cappucino to be found!)

    On the bright side, this junket might mean we are send 3 lame ducks to Italy. Buon giorno Alvin, Kendra, and David!

    As for our globe-trotting administrators: don’t just blame them; blame the school board.

  • Looks like its a case of ‘if is not broke, we need to fix it’. Have there been actual cases where CARS response too slow and someone has died?Haven’t heard of any.
    On the other hand,have had people complain about slow police response to a call-and they are taxpayer funded.
    Sounds like another excuse for the city to get a few more dollars out ofthe taxpayers’ pockets to fund something that is questionable of the need for.Oh, I forgot, we really “needed” the transit center too!
    And of course we need city officials to go on a junket to Italy.Of course like someone said, thats fine, if none of them come back!

  • “By a 5-3 vote, with two abstentions and three members missing, the committee decided to recommend that the City Council move forward with city-staffed service. The two CARS representatives and Dan Eggleston, chief of the Albemarle County Fire and Rescue division, voted against the idea.”
    Taken from dailyprogress.com this morning at the following link: “http://dailyprogress.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=CDP/MGArticle/CDP_BasicArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1173353299903&path=!news”
    This vote by the committee that met in secret is interesting. 13 people on the committee, eight voted, five (38%) didn’t, 5 to 3 in favor of what? Did the two ghosts who abstained do so because they felt they had not received enough information to vote intelligently or did they do so out of protest of an unfair political process? Was the vote called for when it was noticed that three other ghosts, and possible dissenters, would be absent? Were they really absent or had they just stopped attending? The end result is five people will probably determine how this $1M is spent (exactly the way it was planned before this committee was named back in March, 2007?). Obvisouly, the three D’s, Brown, Norris and Toscano, think this is an example of an acceptable decision-making process at the local level to allow this farce to continue. I don’t and the handling of this mess will dictate my votes in the future.
    How is it that CARS can run eight ambulances on a budget of $850,000 and the City can only run two for a $1 million. Is it a question of competence or additional funding for EMS training in Italy, Bulgaria and France?

  • Yeah, and just learned one of those missing of course was David Toscano, he was smart enough to dodge this bullet.

    The firefighter folks purposely pushed this through to get their goods before the election.

    They don’t care if this might lose the election for one or two of the Democrats, they are selfish.

    Again, lets see the fire departments response times? Where are they? I have heard that they are slower than they were accusing CARS!

    Oh, and how the fact that house fires are down nationally is not part of the discussion?

    I wonder if this has anything to do with the fire department desperately looking for excuses to keep it’s self fully staffed?

    hmmmmmm, instead of saving city tax payer money by cutting back on the fire department, we are spending a million dollars to give them an excuse for something to do.

    Lovely

    I suppose only Taliaferro and company understands this logic.

    Look at this report to see the dramatic drop in house fires nation wide:

    http://www.nfpa.org/itemDetail.asp?categoryID=953&itemID=23033&URL=Research & Reports/Fire statistics/The U.S. fire problem

  • I don’t see how a second rescue squad will help local citizens in any way. If anything, there’s potential for more delay and confusion, not less. When someone in the city calls 911, how will the dispatcher decide which rescue squad to call? Will people request CARS and be told, “No, sorry, the city rescue squad now covers your neighborhood”?

    Also, I’ve seen CARS ambulances fighting their way through some tight intersections. On many C’ville streets, there is little space for traffic to pull over into to allow the ambulance to pass, which must be a big factor when considering delays.

  • Well, Patience, let me see… hmmmmmm… which service? The one that doesn’t bill or the one that charges $400 per trip? Hmmmmmm, 911 receives City money and has to be paid… Hmmmmm. We need more ambulances and employees…hmmmmmm…we need another dispatch center….hummmm…it would be cool to have another garage…hmmmmm.

  • For all you “armchair” emergency service providers, here are a few facts you should consider before you post any more ignorant statements.

    The City Fire Dept. has been responding with CARS for years, many times providing life saving initial patient care before CARS arrives. The only service they don’t provide is ambulance transport. They want to supplement CARS service, not replace it.

    CARS leadership acknowledges a need for more staffed units. CARS identifies themselves as an “all volunteer” organization when you receive the nice annual donation flyer. How about stopping by CARS building and say “hello” to the 3 PAID ALBEMARLE COUNTY FIRE\RESCUE MEDICS that work there Monday through Friday.

    Why is it OK for Albemarle County Fire Rescue to have PAID medics in Albemarle County volunteer stations and a PAID ambulance at the airport but not acceptable for CFD to provide medic service that was recommended by an independent accreditation team?

    Ask CARS to show you any recognized standard that they have adopted to judge their service vs other organizations. When asked this question by a trained assessor, the answer was “none” The assessor
    then said “so good enough is good enough?” The answer was “yes”

    The CFD is trying to assist CARS with a fast growing citizen need to provide better service. CARS is an outstanding organization that unfortunately has to face the same issue as thousands of volunteer organizations across this country. Demand is exceeding the ability to provide.

  • Well Flip my first response is wouldnt it be nice to stop by and say hello to a couple paid Charlottesvile fire/rescue medics? Where’s the love?

    How long has the County been providing assistance to CARS, an established organization up and running, instead of trying to duplicate services?

  • “The City Fire Dept. has been responding with CARS for years, many times providing life saving initial patient care before CARS arrives. The only service they don’t provide is ambulance transport.” Are you trying to tell the public that our firemen are all certified medics whose performance has been equal to that of our award-winning CARS?
    “CARS leadership acknowledges a need for more staffed units.” CARS has always sought volunteers. If they’re asking for staff, why are you buying two ambulances WITH TAX PAYERs’ MONEY?
    “Why is it OK for Albemarle County Fire Rescue to have PAID medics in Albemarle County volunteer stations and a PAID ambulance at the airport but not acceptable for CFD to provide medic service that was recommended by an independent accreditation team?” Oh, na-na-nanny-pooh-pooh. What consultant? Why are you at CFD hiding all of this documentation you’re supposed to have in secret meetings? What does an agreement the County has with CARS have to do with the agreement the City has had with CARS for the last 47 years?
    “Ask CARS to show you any recognized standard that they have adopted to judge their service vs other organizations.” Don’t have to. All of CARS clients are satisfied with its service and don’t need confirmation from some organization who will get paid to come here for three days to tell us what we already know – CARS has always provided excellent service as you acknowledge in the next paragraph. Saying otherwise is slapping the faces of the thousands of wonderfully competent volunteers we have had in the past.
    “The CFD is trying to assist CARS with a fast growing citizen need to provide better service. CARS is an outstanding organization that unfortunately has to face the same issue as thousands of volunteer organizations across this country. Demand is exceeding the ability to provide.”
    There has been no growth in the population in the City in 30 years and there has been no increasing need for CARS in the City during that time. With the population growth in the County, Western Albemarle Rescue Squad was formed, and, as you have mentioned, several other units in the northern part of the County, also. With the population growth, IN THE COUNTY, there was a need for the County to enter into a different agreement with CARS. This does not imply there is a need for the City to do the same.
    You say you want to supplement CARS service, in both the City and County (yes, people, County). Unwanted advances in the workplace is called “harassment.” Both CARS and the County Fire Chief have rebuffed you. Are you taking on the role of some kind of predator? Or is it that you think you are more knowledgeable and competent than the people at the other organizations?
    Or, is this just another way to get your feet in the door (by providing EMS to the County) of consolidating the City and County fire departments with the support of O’Connell and Taliaferro (who also like to spend their time and City money chasing after awards) despite the City-hired consultants’ opinion otherwise?
    And lastly, you certainly show a great deal of disdain for us “armchair ignorants” who pay your salary, benefits and retirement. I think Council has indulged you, O’Connell and Taliaferro long enough in this ambition and should stiffen its backbone and put an end to this mess, even if it means your retirement, “Flip.”

  • It is interesting we have the former fire chief on City Council and he was a nationally recognized leader in Fire Stations and Fire Depts but somehow he doesn’t have any “public” records that show response time. Chief Werner has chosen to continue that policy as well. If this FD is such a great dept. worthy of national recognition wouldn’t that lead one to believe response times are great? If they are great, why not share them? Sounds like City Council has money burning a hole in their pockets.

  • Boxer, even if City Council doesn’t have money burning a hole in their pocket, they will find and take what little is left in the taxpayer’s pockets. People are being forced out of the city because of taxes and out of control spending. The tax on my parent’s home is now $4,000 a year, or $333 a month. The last year they had a mortgage payment was $2,100 a year, $175 a month. After paying a mortgage for 30 years, they now have to pay twice as much a month in taxes just to keep the home.

  • As a home owner and business person in the City, I simply wanted to find out what the facts were regarding this situation. The committee which voted made a decision based on a report entitled “Emergency Medical System Delivery” dated 10/23/2007. I went to the Fire Department website and found it to not be operational. I then called the Fire Department business line and after two attempts of navigating the automated telephone system I spoke with a live person. When asked if it was possible to get a copy of the report I was told to look at the C-ARS website. I went there and found it. It can be located at http://warhammer.mcc.virginia.edu/cars/hotnews.html
    The statistics appear to show that C-ARS exceeds the response time standards placed upon them while the Fire Department falls well short of those placed upon them. I am also in a quandry in determining why it is expected that calls for serivce in the city will increase in the coming years. The census shows that the population in the city is decreasing. After stumbling around the C-ARS website, I found this page, http://warhammer.mcc.virginia.edu/cars/numincidents.html After crunching some numbers, it appears that the number of times an ambulance is needed in the city is remaining fairly stable and increasing only slightly.
    I don’t care who shows up if I am in need of any public safety service, as long as they are timley and able to provide the services I need. As a business person, the solution adopted just does not appear to be the best option of the many that were offered.

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