Fluvanna supervisors discuss outdated rescue equipment

Some have failed on emergency calls

By Heather Michon

County rescue squads are operating with cardiac monitors and automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) that are themselves on life support. All have reached end-of-life, and some have failed on recent emergency calls.

The replacement cost for all units is $358,262, well above the $200,000 earmarked for new equipment in the FY21 budget. To cover the funding gap, Purchasing Officer Cyndi Toler requested board approval to withdraw $159,000 out of a $190,000 fund originally set aside for a new ambulance.

Fire & Rescue officials felt that “cardiac monitors and AEDs are much more critical than that ambulance,” said Toler.

John Lye, chief of Lake Monticello Volunteer Fire & Rescue’s water rescue unit, sent a letter to supervisors the previous week arguing that the purchase could fall under funding available under the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA.

Under the bill passed by Congress this spring, Fluvanna County will eventually receive $5.6 million in ARPA funding for post-COVID relief. Over $2 million is currently available for qualified expenditures.

County Administrator Eric Dahl said he and Lye “don’t see eye to eye” on whether cardiac monitors and AEDs fall under ARPA’s admittedly confusing definitions of what qualifies as COVID-related expenditures.

Lye said he would argue that APRA was designed in part to fund public health measures and that “rescue squads, and maintaining the rescue squads and their ability to respond for patients, is probably the main public health area in the county.”

He noted that the Town of Scottsville had just announced they were going to use ARPA funding to build a new office for the Department of Motor Vehicles, which indicates to him that the law may have a generous interpretation of “public health.”

Dahl said his reading of the ARPA laws led him to feel that cardiac equipment would not qualify. In his view, this purchase didn’t enhance the county’s public health response as the law intended, but only replaced equipment that had reached end-of-life — something the county would have to do even if COVID had never happened.

Supervisors Tony O’Brien (Rivanna) and Donald Weaver (Cunningham) asked Dahl if there were penalties if they used ARPA money and the purchase was later disqualified.

Dahl indicated there was no particular penalty; the county would just have to pay the money back to the federal government somewhere down the line.

Chair Mike Sheridan (Columbia) voiced concern about withdrawing funds earmarked for the new ambulance.

Another option would be to take the $159,000 from the General Fund and leave the ambulance money intact, but the idea didn’t seem to gain traction among board members.

Supervisor Weaver then suggested deferring a decision by a couple of weeks before making a final decision, prompting an immediate response from county staff. With cardiac units already having failed in the field, they felt the decision needed to be made quickly to get the purchasing process in motion.

After further discussion, the motion to move the funds from the ambulance fund to the equipment fund passed 4-1, with Sheridan voting no. He joined the majority in a motion to approve the purchase of the equipment, which passed 5-0.


ARPA came up again in a motion to approve a contract with Dewberry Engineering to conduct a study of Fork Union Military Academy’s (FUMA’s) wastewater treatment system.

The survey is designed to give the county a better understanding of the system’s current condition and any upgrades or improvements it might need.

Dahl said there have been some discussions about the county taking over the system from FUMA, and a technical report would show them what’s there, what’s not there, and what might need to be done with the system before any agreements are made.

“We don’t want to be given a problem,” he said.

The system is believed to have a design capacity of 60,000 gallons per day and may be able to handle much more. FUMA may currently only be using about 25,000 gallons per day. If there is spare capacity, at some point in the future, the county could tie the FUMA treatment plant into a wider Fork Union Sanitary District system.

Unlike the cardiac equipment, wastewater treatment plants fall squarely under APRA funding. The report will take about two months to complete at a cost of $39,870.

The motion passed 5-0.

The next meeting of the board will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 18 at 7pm at the Fluvanna County Public Library.

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