Editorials, Opinion

Mon Commission should help out Star City VFD

It was already a blow to the community when the Star City Volunteer Fire Department had to retire its EMS. We don’t want to imagine how devastating it could be to lose the entire fire department.

Unfortunately, that’s a future we may have to contemplate, since the Star City VFD is more than $600,000 in debt.

Which is why the volunteer department has asked the Monongalia County Commission for help — help that we think the commission should provide.

Right now, the Mon County Commission and the West Virginia Auditor’s office are sorting through the VFD’s books, and we hope that perhaps they’ll find something that makes the situation a little less bleak. But even if they don’t, we think it would be in the county’s best interest if the commission could offer some financial relief to Star City’s VFD — at least enough to keep creditors from forcing the VFD to shutter. Or, in the words of Joe Klass, “the bank comes in and drives our fire trucks away.”

Any supposed “bailout” comes with pros and cons, both real and perceived. Why is the financial help needed? Who bears the brunt of the cost? Does the entity receiving the help “deserve” it?

In this case, the Star City VFD needs help because the department is struggling under the weight of loans taken out under previous leadership. (Ironically, those loans were to launch the now-defunct Star City EMS.) County taxpayers technically bear the brunt of the cost, but it’s money that taxpayers have already relinquished to the commission; there is not an additional charge.

As for whether or not the Star City VFD deserves it … We can understand why someone would object to subsidizing the department’s financial mistakes. But we also believe the VFD delivers the kind of service that would make saving it well worth the investment. Star City’s fire engines respond to calls all over the county, and the VFD is one of the busiest in the area, handling roughly 1,100 calls every year. (For perspective, that’s about three calls per day.)

The Mon County Commission should take stock of its unallocated funds and use at least some of what’s available to help the Star City VFD stay operational.

And perhaps in the future, instead of a flat rate to all of the county’s fire departments, levy allotments could take call volume into consideration to help balance the extra expenses related to frequent emergency responses.

Whatever the future may bring, we just hope it doesn’t involve bankers driving off with Star City VFD’s fire engines.