Albemarle County will hire its own emergency manager coordinator.
The Charlottesville-UVa-Albemarle Office of Emergency Management division within the regional Emergency Communications Center has handled county and regional emergency management duties with a coordinator and assistant.
On Wednesday, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors voted to approve a county coordinator position and a new emergency management division within the Albemarle County Fire Rescue department.
Albemarle County Fire Rescue Chief Dan Eggleston said differing needs in the city and the county has spurred this request.
“What we have seen is that requires a lot of resources and actually competes for the resources that the county needs to plan for natural events, which is historically the events we’ve experienced most,” he said.
The city, on the other hand, handles more events, he said.
Eggleston said he testified before Congress last year about the effects of climate change on emergency and fire services.
“Regardless of my view on climate change, we are seeing trends, and we’re not immune to that here, of larger and more devastating natural events,” Eggleston said. “I think we need to be prepared to continue this trend in the future, and think about how we best protect our residents.”
Earlier this week, at the request of the county, the regional Emergency Communications Center board eliminated the currently vacant emergency management coordinator position to allow the county to hire its own position. The ECC will still have an assistant emergency management position.
The county also is proposing to start a Regional Emergency Management Technical Advisory Committee. Membership would be made up of emergency management representatives from Charlottesville, the University of Virginia and Albemarle.
Supervisor Ann H. Mallek said she would like to see how to make some small improvements in some of the county’s outlying areas so that when there is an emergency, everyone can have a place to keep cool and get water or other resources.
Eggleston said that it has always been a challenge for first responders to reach the rural population, especially those who may be socially isolated. He said they can work more with the Community Emergency Response Team volunteers for assistance on reaching people.
“This is an office of one, so the majority of their time is going to be establishing relationships and partnerships and agreements with other agencies, both private and public, to help us out in time of need,” he said
The total annual ongoing cost for the new position is estimated to be $102,000, according to county documents, with some of the funds reallocated from the ECC.
Supervisor Rick Randolph pointed out that this was the lowest cost option proposed.
“The fact of the matter is that what we’re proposing to do here is to deliver a higher quality of directly county-specific services than currently is available within the county to protect the health, safety and welfare of our citizens, which is, after all, is our rationale for being a local government,” Randolph said.