Allegations target Bertie officials

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 3, 2007

AULANDER – There are two sides to every story.

Chris Bracy, chief of the former Aulander Volunteer Rescue Squad (AVRS), told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald that his version of what happened in the end months of the squad is quite different from that of county officials.

Bracy indicated he believed Bertie County Manager Zee Lamb wanted the AVRS to close back in 2004 because they refused to give in to his wishes.

&uot;I think Zee wanted us closed down way back when because we bucked him and didn’t bow down to him,&uot; he said.

In 2004, the county expressed discontent with the squad because of certain rescue calls that allegedly went unanswered.

The squad operated on a &uot;full-time&uot; nights and weekends basis until this January.

&uot;Then, due to dwindling membership and rising costs, we were forced to cut back to half-time,&uot; Bracy stated.

He claims that the AVRS notified the county of this change and that Emergency Management Coordinator Rickey Freeman acknowledged the new arrangement by sending back a part-time schedule for the AVRS to follow.

&uot;We sent Rickey Freeman notification via fax and to the central dispatch and we also had a meeting with the Lewiston and Colerain squads all together in our rescue building to discuss the new arrangement,&uot; Bracy said.

He continued, &uot;We know he received it because Rickey sent back the schedule of part-time showing when Aulander would work.&uot;

Bracy showed the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald this schedule, along with the original fax that was sent to Freeman and also Bertie County’s main dispatch center notifying them of the change.

The county claims they received no notice and that they did not discover Aulander had switched to part-time until May. At that time, the county finance office stopped sending the $1,000 per month funding that had previously been given to the AVRS.

It was apparently decided that since the squad was only working half of the time, they should only receive half the funding.

Since they had been overpaid for five months from January to May, the county decided to stop sending checks completely until November to make up for the difference.

Bracy said the AVRS was not notified of this cut in funding and was only told of it when they called the county finance office to inquire about the check that never came.

&uot;They should have notified us before they cut the funds; we shouldn’t have had to be the ones who called and found out when the check didn’t come,&uot; Bracy stated.

He continued, &uot;We were simply unable to operate on $500 a month. The insurance alone ran to $13,000 a year, plus utility bills, gas and other expenses.&uot;

The AVRS covered 75 square miles in the area surrounding and including Aulander.

With the dissolution of the squad, that area is now the responsibility of the remaining squads in the county.