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Pittsylvania County leadership remains committed to keeping the Penhook community protected, including residents of The Water’s Edge, as negotiations continue between Pittsylvania County and Franklin County over appropriate cost-sharing for Cool Branch Volunteer Fire and Rescue agencies.
"Both Pittsylvania and Franklin Counties carry equal responsibility to protect the Penhook community with fire and EMS coverage," said Pittsylvania County Administrator David Smitherman. "We expect to come to an mutually beneficial funding arrangement that works for both localities and, most importantly, allows for continued excellent, consistent, and timely emergency services."
Located just inside the borders of Pittsylvania County, Cool Branch is the smallest fire and rescue agency in the county by call volume. In 2019 about 60% of the 325 EMS calls where the department was the first due to the scene originated in Franklin County. Franklin County's annual contribution of $10,000 to both Cool Branch Fire and Rescue hasn't changed in decades, while Pittsylvania County contributes more than $30,000 to each annually, in addition to providing insurance and funding for new vehicles. Pittsylvania County has contributed nearly $1 million more than Franklin County over the past decade to the Cool Branch volunteer agencies.
After signalling its intent in May to cease providing service to Franklin County unless an equitable agreement could be reached, Franklin County leaders indicated that there isn't any money in the budget for increased funding. Of the taxable value in the Cool Branch primary response district, 64% is located in Franklin County. The Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors passed multiple 30-day extensions to ensure that the entire Penhook community continues to have the coverage that it deserves. The most recent extension was approved during their Sept. meeting, which expires next week.
Other than repeatedly saying that it doesn’t have sufficient funding to provide additional help, the Franklin County Board of Supervisors, thus far, have not clearly indicated how it desires to proceed. Both the Pittsylvania and Franklin Boards are scheduled to discuss the matter independently during their upcoming meetings next week.