Hanover public safety spending a priority

Posted on Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 9:51 am

In response to Fire/EMS manpower shortage, funding for new career firefighters,medics

With a lack of funding in the past years, Hanover Fire/EMS has struggled with having enough medics and firefighters in the field to help the public.

Last year, the ladder truck company was unable to answer 501 calls for assistance – or 65 percent of the time – a statistic Chief Jethro Piland credits to a lack of manpower.

Jethro Piland Hanover's Fire/EMS chief.

Jethro Piland Hanover’s Fire/EMS chief.

Despite that, Fire/EMS responded to about 12,000 incidents in under 7 minutes in 2013, which increased by 300 calls from 2012, Piland said. Eighty percent of the calls went to rescue squads in the county.

For the department’s 2015 spending plan of $15.36 million, Piland asked the county for eight cross-trained firefighter/medics to solve some of their staffing issues. But the county’s proposed budget, which totals $390.6 million, only includes six.

“I did not get everything I asked for,” Piland said.

They want to focus on full-time ladder truck company staffing to ensure coverage during peak hours.

Piland said that they will take some volunteers and turn them into career firefighters.

“I’m confident that all six of them will be from the volunteer candidates,” he said.

The proposed plan also includes one new $500,000 fire truck. The secondary truck has 100,462 miles and the average age for most of those fire trucks is 19 years old.

They’re replacing a 1992 fire truck with 136,000 miles in the Doswell/Montpelier area of Hanover.

There will also be two $386,000 ambulances and the average ambulance has 63,000 miles.

The department is also in need of a $60,000 cascade replacement system, which was 22 years old. It is used to fill air tanks that fire fighters use in the field when combating blazes, so they do not lose any air supply.

Another item on the list is a cardiac monitor/defibrillator, which is also aging. It is not in production anymore, but Hanover Fire/EMS received a grant from the Virginia Office of EVMS for $274,245 to replace 10 of those. After each year, 10 more will be replaced.

In addition, there will be computer replacements. The $84,000 for computer replacements, which includes 20 different devices used by fire marshals, battalion chiefs and some ambulance operators. All devices over five years will be replaced.

The budget also includes funding for maintenance projects at a few fire stations. The Montpelier Fire Station is in need of a bathroom renovation for a restroom that was developed for only occasional use of volunteers, but is now used around the clock.

Also on the list is the Mechanicsville Fire Station’s roof, which is 22-years-old and needs to be replaced.

Piland said the stations are also in need of better laundry equipment.

Although the department needs are grand, Hanover Fire/EMS will be receiving much more than in previous years. Their budget increased by 5.6 percent from the 2014 Fiscal Year, where they received $14.55 million.

The public will have a chance to voice opinions on the 2015 financial plan March 26.

 

Overall crime increases 5.5 % in Hanover; additional 6 deputies called for in budget

In the face of rising crime, this year’s county budget calls for increasing law enforcement’s presence in Hanover. But the current plan still calls for nearly 50 percent less manpower than the Hanover Sheriff’s Office requested.

Col. David Hines, Hanover sheriff

Col. David Hines, Hanover sheriff

There was a 5.5 percent increase in overall crime last year and the county’s crime rate of 1,072 has increased 2 percent since 2012. A locality’s crime rate is calculated by how many people are victims of crimes per every 100,000 citizens. But Col. David R. Hines, Hanover sheriff, said in comparison to neighboring localities Chesterfield (2,014) and Henrico (2,646.), the county has a very low rate.

Still, one of the big challenges for the Sheriff’s Office is staff shortage.

In the past five years, no new positions were added to the department. This year Hines initially asked the county for 11 deputy positions and a budget of  $23.39 million.

The proposed $21.96 million Sheriff’s Office spending plan includes six new deputy positions and four bailiffs to meet the needs of new courts.  Hines described it as a “good start and step in the right direction as [they] look to address community needs.”

Despite the fact County Administrator Rhu Harris’ budget did not fully meet the Sheriff’s Office’s request, Hines was pleased with what the county offered the department.

“The easiest thing for me to do is to say please adopt Harris’ budget,” Hines said to the board of supervisors during his Feb. 26 presentation.

With receiving only six positions, Hines said the task would be figuring out where to put them.

“Everyone wants one,” he said.

Although staff for investigation and patrol is low, Hines said it is likely the new deputies will be put in patrol.

In addition to an increase in deputies, the proposed spending plan would enhance and replace outdated technologies.

“Equipment ages and technology falls behind,” Hines said.

He said some of their equipment is 7 years old and their polygraph machine is outdated and needs to be replaced.

Vehicles are also aging. Hines said the department has 72 patrol cars with 800,000 miles or more and the standard used to be that 6-year-old vehicles would be replaced. Now, the Sheriff’s Office runs cars until they no longer work, he said.

“Aging vehicles propose safety issues for our deputies,” he said.

Aside from the challenges they face, the Sheriff’s Office cleared more crimes than the previous years. The clearance rate was 68.9 percent in 2013, which rose from 65.5 in 2012. Most of the “index crimes,” or top crimes that are reported to the FBI report, decreased, including burglaries and homicides.

However, aggravated assaults increased from 2012 and so did arson, by 25 percent. There were five arson cases in 2013.

In addition to crime, one of the other main concerns for Hanover residents is existing traffic.

Last year they reported 1,340 crashes, which was a 7 percent increase 2012. The Sherriff’s Office responded to 1,718 incident calls. The top-10 crash locations are along Mechanicsville Turnpike, Chamberlayne Road and Peaks Road/ Sliding Hill Road.

“Any motor vehicle crash has the potential to impact the vehicle occupants, friends and family tremendously,” Hines said.

The board of supervisors will discuss the spending plan, including the sheriff’s presentation, at their March 5 budget work session held after presstime this week.

 

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