Moundsville, Local Volunteer Fire Department Fully Involved in Space-Sharing Talks

Photo by Alan Olson Moundsville Volunteer Fire Department Chief Brad Varlas extends the offer to host the city’s municipal fire department at their First Street facility during a city council meeting Tuesday.

Over the objections of Mayor Allen Hendershot, Moundsville City Council voted Tuesday to form a committee to discuss the possibility of the city’s paid and volunteer fire departments sharing space.

Councilman David Wood introduced the proposal for the two departments to share the volunteer agency’s space last week, saying such a move could save money and allow the city to make needed repairs to its own facilities. At the time, Hendershot expressed his disapproval — a stance he maintained during Tuesday’s meeting.

Moundsville VFD Chief Brad Varlas said his department, despite a history of animosity with the city’s paid fire department, would be willing to share its space. He also said he wants to dispel rumors that the VFD wants to assume the duties of its paid counterparts.

“Moundsville Volunteer Fire Department, under no circumstance, is looking to try and do away with the city fire department,” he said. “That’s never been our stance — 30 years ago, it wasn’t then, and it isn’t now.”

Last week, Moundsville VFD President Jeff Henderson said the volunteers’ building lacks the space to accommodate the paid firefighters. But Varlas disputed that claim, noting VFD members voted Jan. 10 to allow him to begin talks about sharing space.

“A lot of questions have to be answered, (there’s) a lot of things to go through, but it can happen … ,” he said. “I’ve said for 20-some years, it’s crazy — the duplication of equipment and stuff that’s been happening. There’s no need for it, but it has, and it’s ongoing. That could be a cost savings for both departments.”

Gary Brandon, acting chief of the city’s paid fire department, questioned whether the call to unite under one roof was related to the death of former Chief Noel Clarke in November.

“Would this be going on if our chief was still here?” Brandon asked. “Would you have brought this up before he passed?”

Wood clarified that he had been pursuing the issue for some time before bringing it before council, with council member Ginger DeWitt agreeing that she had pursued the matter long ago.

“If it’s going to better the city, I’m all for it,” DeWitt said. “The animosity doesn’t have to be there. The fact that we want to pick or choose sides and to have animosity, that won’t benefit the people of Moundsville. I’m here for one reason — it’s the citizens. It might hurt some feelings, it might make some people mad. But what’s best for the city is what I’ll do.”

Brandon also questioned whether either entity would charge or need to pay rent for the shared use of the building, which he speculated would cut into the cost-saving aspect of the arrangement.

Council voted 5-1, with Councilman David Haynes absent, to move forward with discussion and form a committee to discuss the potential combination of the fire departments’ buildings. Hendershot cast the lone “no” vote, with Gene Saunders, Judy Hunt, Phil Remke, Wood and DeWitt voting in favor.

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