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County able to dissolve rescue squad, judge clarifies

Orders signed by a judge earlier this month clarify a previous ruling that Albemarle County is within its rights to dissolve the Scottsville Volunteer Rescue Squad.

Last month, Judge Cheryl Higgins ruled on a demurrer filed by an attorney for SVRS, stating that the nature of the relationship between the county and the organization does authorize the county to dissolve the entire entity.

According to letters submitted to the court by an attorney for the county and the attorney representing SVRS, there was confusion as to whether the judge ruled that the rescue squad was officially dissolved.

“I am glad that we were able to resolve our most significant difference, namely that your original proposed order entered what was effectively final relief, even though the matter was before the court solely on demurrer,” Michael Gardner, an attorney for SVRS, wrote in a letter.

The Board of Supervisors voted to dissolve the squad’s operations in April and asked the Albemarle County Fire Rescue Division to take over remaining shifts in the area, after the squad struggled to find enough volunteers to staff its operations.

The county has filed a petition for a permanent injunction against the squad transferring its assets to another nonprofit.

One order filed by the attorney for the county and signed by Judge Cheryl Higgins overruled the demurrer and stated that the county can dissolve SVRS, that the rescue squad as an entity can be dissolved by an action of the Board of Supervisors and that the rescue squad’s incorporation “does not cause it to survive dissolution” by the board.

In a hand-written statement attached to the order, Gardner said SVRS objects to the order for reasons previously stated and that the order “enters relief and/or makes findings and conclusions that go beyond what can be ordered on respondent’s demurrer.” Gardner also said that the order “invades respondent’s right to file an answer.”

The county responded with a bill of particulars on Jan. 13.

In the bill of particulars, the county argues that there is no express contract between the county and SVRS, but that the court should see it as a “contract implied-in-fact” because of funds given to the rescue squad over time and because of the legal protections granted by the county for SVRS to provide emergency medical services, among other things.

For SVRS to retain assets after dissolution “would frustrate the intent of the original donors, both private and public, and create an unjust enrichment for [SVRS] and its officers and directors as trustees of a dissolved emergency medical services agency,” the county states.

A second order requires SVRS to file an answer to the county’s petition for declaratory judgement and permanent injunction. The squad has until next week to file an answer.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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