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By CATHY DYSON
King George County Supervisor John LoBuglio is asking former fire and rescue volunteers why they left the service and if they'd be willing to come back, if changes are made.
Among the changes listed in the five-page questionnaire are: firing Fire and Rescue Chief David Moody, severely limiting his authority and abolishing a 2008 ordinance that put him in charge of both career staff and volunteers.
"This was not done to attack anyone," LoBuglio said Monday. "Some of the questions may be taken that way, OK, but they need to be asked."
LoBuglio said the questionnaire, which also asks about the operation of the department, its policies and the creation of a fire, rescue and EMS advisory commission, was his idea.
Two former volunteers, whom he wouldn't name, sent out the forms and came up with the 16 questions, which LoBuglio tweaked.
LoBuglio's name is not on the form, which went to about 35 county residents who are volunteering with fire and rescue departments in other localities or not volunteering at all.
LoBuglio did not tell fellow supervisors of his plans. He said he wanted to wait and see what responses he got.
"I didn't want to make this an issue for the entire board unless it comes back with significant information," LoBuglio said.
But the issue of fire and rescue coverage has been discussed regularly among board members all year. During a March town-hall meeting hosted by Supervisor Ruby Brabo, Chief Moody and Volunteer Chief Ted Lovell said the department had "serious issues," including inadequate staffing.
Brabo, LoBuglio and Chairman Cedell Brooks Jr. seemed poised in April to raise real-estate taxes to fund the budget and hire three more paid fire and rescue workers.
But that plan failed when LoBuglio was influenced by a group of residents and decided he couldn't support a tax increase at all.
Meanwhile, supervisors just received a strategic plan from Moody and others about future staffing needs of the fire and rescue department. The board is supposed to set a time to discuss that plan, probably in June.
Chairman Brooks, who's the liaison between the supervisors and the fire and rescue department, didn't know until Monday that LoBuglio was behind the questionnaires.
He said the county has worked hard to unify career staff and volunteers. He wondered how "anything positive" could come out of a questionnaire that asks for someone's dismissal.
"All that does is open old wounds," Brooks said. "I think there's other ways to handle that, but this is the way he chose to do it."
Even though the chairman didn't know about the questionnaire, two other supervisors did.
On the last page of the questionnaire are instructions to send the form to former Sheriff Moose Dobson, who will tally the results and keep the names to himself.
LoBuglio asked him to do the compiling because Dobson "has such integrity that his character couldn't be attacked," he said.
Dobson agreed to help.
"But I didn't want anybody to think I was running behind somebody's back, trying to do something," Dobson said.
The former sheriff goes to church with Supervisor Dale Sisson Jr., so earlier this month, between Sunday school and church, Dobson said he mentioned the questionnaire to Sisson.
Dobson did the same with Supervisor Joe Grzeika when he saw him at a county function, also this month.
In previous discussions about the shortage of fire and rescue workers, LoBuglio has stressed that more emphasis should be placed on recruiting volunteers. He hoped to get an idea of what changes the county could make to bring back more volunteers instead of hiring more people.
Dobson said he received seven responses last week and none so far this week. The biggest complaint dealt with one part of the questionnaire, which asks if volunteers have the same rights as career staff and if they
"They seemed to think they were treated differently from the paid firemen," Dobson said about the results received so far. "The discipline fell solely with the fire chief, and he could dismiss anyone at his own will and pleasure, so to speak."
In 2009, longtime volunteer Pete Sullivan aired a grievance against Chief Moody because the chief dismissed him after 46 years of service. Sullivan appealed the decision to the county administrator, who agreed with Moody.
Sullivan and others have claimed that the fallout from that action caused as many as 23 volunteers to leave the King George system.
LoBuglio said neither Sullivan nor any members of his family, who currently volunteer in Port Royal, were involved in the questionnaire.
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425