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Rescue Squad has ‘no plans' for Fleetwood property

Originally published: Nov. 14, 2012
Last modified: Nov. 14, 2012

Adam Orr

A simple miscommunication may have led the Fleetwood Fire Department, and Fleetwood business owner Steve Halsey, to believe the Ashe County Rescue Squad was looking to use land used by both groups on Clarence Lyall Road outside West Jefferson.

“I definitely want to let Steve (Halsey) and everybody else know that we apologize for any kind of miscommunication,” said Captain of the Ashe County Rescue Squad Ricky Roark. “We're here to help people, not hurt them.”

Roark's apology comes a week after a meeting between Ashe County government, the Fleetwood Fire Department, and Halsey to sort out confusion over a land transfer the county had proposed to Halsey.

After spending more than $15,000 to install a belowground water tank on land adjacent to property owned by Halsey — the department was told by county officials that the North Carolina Department of Transportation currently holds that piece of property for use in the future widening of 221. The news came after the department signed a lease with the county in July of 2011 that would allow them to use the property through 2099.

Now, FVFD members, including Board Chairman Rick Surber and Fire Chief Steve Craven, are concerned the county could force them to move their tanks and then use the land for a building to house Ashe County Rescue Squad equipment.

Commission meeting minutes indicate that there was discussion by commissioners and Ashe County Emergency Management Coordinator Patty Gambill on Sept. 6, 2011, “that the Ashe County Rescue Squad had requested to build several bays on a lot at the Old Fields Voting House property.”

The minutes say that the “bays would be used for truck storage only. There would be no need for water and sewage services.”

Roark said the rescue squad had indeed looked at the area near Halsey's property, but ultimately decided the property was too small for the rescue squad's use.

“From my point, we started searching because we're in need of a second base station at our main base on Mt. Jefferson Road,” said Roark. “Patty (Gambill) brought this piece of land in Fleetwood to our attention that the county owned where the old voting house once stood.”

Roark, Gambill, and rescue squad member Robert Poe then looked at the property, in addition to having it surveyed.

“After the survey, from what I know, it came back that we were really splitting the corners on Steve's property and the county's property in some way,” said Roark. “The survey showed that it was really very, very small.”

Rescue squad members, including Roark, then approached Halsey about purchasing the piece of property where Halsey's business now stands.

“He wanted a little more than we felt like we could spend at the time,” said Roark.

Roark said that was the last time, to his knowledge, anybody from the ACRS had spoken with Halsey.

In previous meetings, Ashe County Manager Pat Mitchell said plans for a rescue squad building had only been discussed in the Fleetwood area, as a way to preposition emergency units to cope with increased demand when US 221 is widened in the future.

“It's been mentioned somewhere, and I'm not exactly sure where the rescue squad came into all this ... but when the conversation started that, as (Highway) 221 widens, would it be smart to have rescue out there?” Mitchell said on Nov. 5. 

“Would that benefit the citizens? It probably would. Would it fit out there? I don't know. So we started investigating that.”

The county discussed the possibility of using the property for a rescue squad, “But it was never from the stance that we needed to have a rescue building out there and then everything else would fall into place. It's been interpreted that way, and I'm sorry, but that's not how the conversation started.”

Roark said any pressure Halsey feels to make the land transfer happen will not come from the rescue squad.

“As recently as Friday, I spoke with Steve to see how he was feeling, and he told me he did feel like he was being pressured to do the deal and that's the absolute last thing that I want,” said Roark. “I can't say this enough — the Ashe County Rescue Squad will not purchase or build on or near Halsey's property. That piece of ground simply isn't big enough. Again, I've apologized to him on my behalf, and on behalf of the department.”


For more information and stories, see Ashe Mountain Times.