City to pay expert medics

MANASSAS — For the first time, the Greater Manassas Volunteer Rescue Squad will not be made up entirely of volunteers.

The City Council decided Wednesday night to fund the hiring of four career advanced life-support personnel. The $252,000 for the positions is now officially part of the city’s proposed fiscal 2003 budget.

“We need to be critical of what we do when we spend taxpayers’ money. But this is about providing quality service to our citizens,” said Councilman Harry J. “Hal” Parrish.

A final vote on the budget is scheduled for Tuesday.

At this time, the rescue squad has 30 to 40 members. Of those volunteers, less than 10 are trained in advanced life-support techniques, according to Rescue Chief Jake Kezele.

“ALS training is hard to come by, especially with the time and money involved,” he said.

It takes a great deal of effort for a person to become ALS certified.

“It’s like going to medical school most of the time. It’s very, very difficult,” Kezele said.

Police Chief John Skinner, who helps coordinate public safety in Manassas, said that Prince William County is staffing 40 percent of all medic runs in the city.

Skinner maintained that the four new ALS staff members, who will also be trained in firefighting, will fill that gap.

Looking at other volunteer fire departments in Virginia, he was sure that the paid staff members would make the experience of serving even more rewarding for the volunteers.

Also on Wednesday night, the council reviewed comments made by citizens at Monday’s public hearing.

“Panorama Latino,” it was decided, will not receive any money. Councilman Bob Oliver mentioned a letter distributed by Stephanie Williams, who runs the television show.

“She criticized us in that letter. I think the decision we made was right. And I’m sticking by it,” he said.

Councilwoman Judy Hays thought the show had outlived its usefulness.

“I’ve spoken with members of the Hispanic community. And they want something more interactive,” she said.

Also, the council voiced support for Historic Manassas Inc.’s plans to stage outdoor July Fourth celebrations downtown this year. The festivities will include a 12- to 15-minute fireworks display, best viewed from the grounds of the Manassas Museum.

Staff writer Chris Newmarker can be reached at (703) 368-3101, Ext. 119.

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