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During Tuesday night's meeting, the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors showed its support for Cool Branch Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad by pledging to match all private donations made to the agencies between July 1 and September 30, 2021, up to a total of $230,000. This move comes after multiple years of negotiations and discussions with Franklin County regarding funding for the two agencies - which are located in Pittsylvania County but run the majority of their calls in Franklin County, but are largely funded by Pittsylvania County.
During that time, Franklin County has yet to consider or propose a valid, equally beneficial funding solution for the two agencies, which play a crucial role for the public safety of the Penhook community.
"Through a lot of discussion and negotiations, we have been trying to find a common solution that was best for both. Unfortunately we just aren't there yet," said Callands-Gretna Supervisor Ben Farmer, who proposed the motion. "The good news is this board wants to try to do our part to help Cool Branch move forward."
In May Franklin County leaders asked for significantly more time to consider their options and agreed to increase their annual funding for each agency by $2,000. That brought their total contribution for each agency to just $12,000 annually. At that time the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors decided to match Franklin County's annual funding level.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Bob Warren said that despite the fact that a fair agreement between the two localities hasn't been reached, he wants to ensure that the citizens in Penhook on both sides of the county lines are protected and that the Cool Branch agencies can continue providing those services.
"The citizens of Franklin County have been the largest donor of these funds that we're talking about matching," Warren said. "It's very unfortunate that citizens have had to take it on themselves to do the work of what their municipal governing body should be doing for them. Those citizens are paying their Franklin County taxes and not getting those services."
The funds for the donation matching have already been budgeted. Originally, these funds were allocated for capital purchases for Cool Branch, but are now being used to match community donations to the two agencies.
In addition to annual funding for the two agencies, Pittsylvania County provides insurance coverage and contributes capital funds for the purchase of new apparatus. Approximately two years ago the two agencies requested funds for a new ambulance and fire truck, which causes the Board of Supervisors to see the discrepancy. Pittsylvania County has offered a wide range of potential solutions - including having Franklin County pay Pittsylvania County on a per-call basis or increasing its annual contributions to $40,000 and helping with capital purchases. To date, Franklin County has not accepted any of Pittsylvania County's proposals or provided any equitable funding options.