Three seats on the York County Council are contested in the Nov. 6 general election. This week, The Herald is publishing the candidates answers to questions about issues facing the county:
Do you agree with the direction the council is going in spending $3.1 million in bond revenue for a fire training center instead of building substations? What role should the county play in helping the countys volunteer emergency medical services squads as new contracts are written for EMS service?
Chairman Britt Blackwell and petition candidate Gary Williams, both Republicans, are competing to represent northern Rock Hill and Newport.
Blackwell: Supports the countys firefighters and rural fire board when they say they need a new fire training center to replace the antiquated one. But the county has to ensure a new fire training center fits the budget. He is concerned that some estimates are higher than previously thought. On preserving volunteer EMS squads ability to operate, Blackwell said, Nobody wants to kill volunteer spirit, which is so important, but he says the county must respect the role of Piedmont Medical Center in providing EMS services countywide. He says a workshop in November will get everyone at the table and hopefully lead to a solution everyone finds fair.
Williams: If we have needs out there that cant be met with the hospital, they need to be addressed because all citizens need to have emergency care nearby. He says a standard must be set for everybody, and the county should help the rescue squads reach that standard. Volunteer firefighters invest a lot of their time fundraising and training, which they cant do enough of, he said. He supports the countys push toward building a new fire training center.
Incumbent Bump Roddey and petition candidate Roy Blake, both Democrats, are competing to represent most of southern Rock Hill.
Roddey: Has supported the councils decision to redirect the money from substations to a new fire training facility. He says financially, it is not possible to return the bond money if the council does not approve spending the money on substations or a new training center. The county needs to be careful, he said, not to run off the volunteer EMS squads in favor of Piedmonts ambulance service. However, if the council doesnt put oversight measures in place, he said, it creates a race to the scene and generates animosity among EMS squads. We can come up with a better plan to utilize our resources.
Blake: Likes the idea of using the money for a new fire training facility. He noted that other rural fire departments have in the past used fundraising or special fire tax districts to build stations. As tough as it might be, whatever the rest of the volunteer firefighters took for building stations and maintaining it, should be the route that these other ones should take also. Says he wouldnt completely rule out returning the bond money and cutting the debt. He thinks the new ambulance service coordination using GPS should limit the problems with double exposure, when more than one EMS service provider responded to a scene. County contracts and oversight are a way to utilize manpower, he said, rather than eliminating the volunteer squads who he thinks are doing a good job.
Incumbent Bruce Henderson and petition candidate John Rinehart, both Republicans, are competing to represent Clover, Lake Wylie and central York County.
Henderson: Volunteerism in western York County is on life support. Rescue squads have no profitability. Advocates a frequent review of the countys contract with EMS squads. Says western York County isnt getting the same level of service in terms of EMS response times. Wants to make it so low-income people in emergency situations get identical service as someone in Beverly Hills. Agrees with the countys push for a new fire training center but only if it doesnt cost much more than estimated.
Rinehart: Agrees with the countys push toward a new fire training station but says the county should assess the need for fire stations. Rural fire departments are showing a local buy-in with efforts to raise money and attempt on their own to build substations. If, after the effort, they need more help, Rinehart said he would consider it. Said the volunteer EMS squads are absolutely important to the community. We need to do all we can to make sure that the spirit of volunteerism stays in our community. If the rescue squads have specific needs that must be met so they can stay active and theyre committed to doing what it takes then the county should consider helping, he said.
Coming Sunday: The candidates answer a question about leadership.
Jamie Self and Anna Douglas