Larrowe tells Buchanan Council ladder truck will eventually be moved to southern end of county

County Administrator Gary Larrowe spent several minutes talking to the Buchanan Town Council and a meeting room full of citizens Monday night.

The upshot was the county reorganized the structure of the Botetourt Fire and EMS Department that day, and with it will come some changes, including moving some fire equipment around.

One of those pieces of equipment is the Buchanan Fire Department ladder truck— a source of pride in that community when it was purchased in the hopes that the then Buchanan Volunteer Fire Department would have a truck capable of fighting a fire like the one that burned the old Hotel Botetourt.

Larrowe told council the department reorganization abolished three positions, but those people are still employed.

The department then established three battalion chiefs who will be in supervisory rolls during the 24/7 shifts.

The department also abolished two deputy chief positions and will now have one deputy chief.

The department also created a captain of training rather than having a battalion of training officer.

Larrowe said the county has not hired a new chief yet, but expects to soon. He wanted to have the reorganization in place before a new chief comes on board.

That’s the first phase of the reorganization.

Next will be acquiring breathing apparatus trucks to scatter around the county. He hopes those will come with grant funds.

Moving equipment will come next to “right size” what departments need.

Larrowe said the southern end of the county, with large industry, needs a ladder truck. He said the Buchanan ladder truck is sometimes used part of the time on the interstate. That’s not what’s designed for.

“We’re not going to come up here and drive off your ladder truck. We know it’s near and dear to the community,” Larrowe said.

The plan is, though, to replace it with an apparatus that will be more functional for the Buchanan department.

Larrowe said the truck will not be moved without a plan in place to replace it.

Later in the meeting, after Larrowe left, Vice-Mayor Jamie Manspile said the county administrator “was on egg shells over the fire truck deal.”

The idea has been floated already, and not gotten support among the Buchanan volunteers.

“The guts were jerked out of the (Buchanan Volunteer Fire) Department” when it was dissolved because of financial challenges and when its chief resigned five years ago and was later indicted on unrelated charges.

“The guys and gals up there (at the fire department) are working their guts out and they have no say,” Manspile continued.

“I want to see the fire department get back on its own two feet,” he continued, adding that he’d like to see it become a volunteer-run department again.

Now, he said, the county dictates everything.

In a matter related to the fire department, Mayor Larry Hall said he’ll be meeting with Buchanan Fire Chief Craig Bryant this week to see what the department’s needs are and who’s responsible for what at the fire house.

The town took over the Buchanan Carnival after the official volunteer fire department dissolved with the understanding revenue from the carnival would be divided between the fire department, rescue squad and improvements to the grounds. At the time, the carnival proceeds were also paying off a $400,000 debt on a department fire truck. Last year, the county has assumed those payments.

Other Business

In other business, council:

• Authorized the purchase of a walk-in cooler for the town warehouse to be used during the carnival and as needed at other times

• Delayed action on a proposal to put rollup windows on the food, ice cream, fry and office stands on the carnival grounds

• Set a 1 p.m. March 26 budget meeting

• Recognized Faye Worley for her dedication to and work for the town

• Heard a presentation from Annette Patterson with The Advancement Foundation about The Gauntlet Business Competition involving the town.

• Received an invitation from Lois Fritz with New Freedom Farms to attend the non-profits Spring Fling on April 1.

— Ed McCoy