Brunswick County cutting ties with Coastline Volunteer Rescue Squad, Leland Fire Rescue

Brunswick County Administration Building. (Source: Brunswick County)
Brunswick County Administration Building. (Source: Brunswick County)((Source: Brunswick County))
Updated: May. 10, 2019 at 7:55 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Brunswick County is planning to cut ties with two area EMS agencies and cover emergency calls from the area themselves.

The Brunswick County Board of Commissioners decided Monday to notify Coastline Volunteer Rescue Squad that they plan to terminate the group’s franchise agreement on September 1, 2019. The board also asked the county manager to begin discussions about terminating the franchise agreement with the Town of Leland.

According to Director of Emergency Services Edward Conrow, the changes wont impact the level of care the community receives and there will be no gaps in service.

Conrow says the county will be responsible for EMS services and is willing to provide paramedic services within the area the rescue squad previously covered. If commissioners decide to end the agreement with Leland, Brunswick County plans to bring on eight staff members to keep up with the calls. In addition to the upped staffing, the county manager is also proposing five new ambulances and providing a remounted ambulance.

The decision to terminate the agreements was driven by the county’s budget. After the Town of Leland asked for financial assistance, Brunswick County analyzed the costs and learned they would be able to provide EMS service to the franchise areas themselves for much less, Conrow says.

A resolution from Leland shows the town asked Brunswick County for $813,000 to support operations on April 18, 2019. A Powerpoint presented at the Brunswick County Commissioner Meeting on May 6, shows the county would only have to pay an additional $153,849 to service the area themselves after factoring in $476,000 of projected revenue that would come in from calls in the new territory.

Commissioner Randy Thompson says after concerns were brought to their attention after learning Coastline has a low percentage rate of call response.

“If you receive over 3,000 calls for assistance and you answer less than 1,000 of those then there’s room for concern, but you recognize that concern so you’ve got the resources from the county which have always been there which are going to answer those calls," said Thompson.

According to the franchise agreement with Coastline Volunteer Rescue Squad, the county had been paying $36,000 per year for Coastline’s services.

Coastline Volunteer Rescue Squad was shocked to hear the county was ending the agreement. The rescue squad posted a lengthy message on its Facebook page outlining its legacy of service to the area.

“We have worked very hard to be respected, good stewards of hard earned money. We do what we do just to help our community in their time of need and we ask for very little in return," the post from the Coastline Volunteer Rescue Squad says.

An online petition has been posted urging commissioners to reconsider the agreement with Coastline Volunteer Rescue Squad. The petition had more than 100 signatures Friday evening.

The town of Leland issued a press release Friday night responding to the recent decision.

“The County and Town are working in partnership to ensure that our residents will not notice any change to EMS services come July 1,” said Leland Mayor Brenda Bozeman. “We have a singular goal with the forthcoming agreement, which is to ensure the continued safety of our citizens.”

According to the press release, the town anticipates the county will offer employment to Leland’s full-time EMS employees and purchase the town’s operational ambulances. Leland also plans to provide county EMS with space in one of the town’s fire stations.

“We are proud of the accomplishments our nationally recognized EMS department has achieved, and are prouder to have served our fellow citizens as a department for more than 50 years,” said Chief John Grimes of the Town of Leland Fire Rescue Department. “We appreciate the County’s trust in us to serve – and the opportunity to continue serving – our fellow residents in emergency medical situations. We have all confidence in the County’s decision to expand its EMS services to our area, and to do so without disruption to Town citizens.”

Brunswick County first granted the town’s volunteer department an ambulance franchise nearly twenty years ago. The agreement was approved again in 2017 when the department became a division of the Town of Leland.

The Brunswick County Board of Commissioners and Leland Town Council will consider talk about the EMS service agreement during their next monthly meetings on May 20 and 23, respectively.

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