STAR CITY, W.Va. (WBOY) — After 12 News learned on Tuesday that the Star City Volunteer Fire Department is facing possible closure due to financial trouble, the department has now released a statement “to provide additional information and transparency to the community.”
Monongalia County Commissioner Tom Bloom told 12 News on Tuesday that the department is $600,000 in debt and could be facing a shutdown.
According to the statement, the department has been dealing with financial strain since the pandemic, and like many other departments, was forced to close its EMS division, which was its main source of revenue.
The statement says that lingering debt from the EMS startup, alongside insufficient funding from the Town of Star City and Monongalia County and higher demand, has led to the department’s current financial situation. According to the statement, Star City receives “significantly less money on a per-call basis” than other volunteer departments in the county.
As it meets with creditors, the Monongalia County Commission and the WV State Auditor, the department said it will continue operations and “will provide the same level of service to the community.”
The full statement is available below or on the department’s Facebook page:
We are aware of recent news articles regarding our financial situation and would like to provide additional information and transparency to the community.
In 2010, a decision was made by previous leadership to begin providing Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to the county. The startup costs of the business were financed by taking out secured credit against the property with the anticipation that the EMS service would be profitable and support the operations of the fire department. For many years, Star City EMS was a successful business. The COVID-19 pandemic placed a severe strain on the business, and other funding issues, such as delayed or reduced insurance disbursements, led to cash flow issues and the closure of our EMS division. Unfortunately, this situation was not unique to us. According to the WV EMS Coalition, more than 70 agencies in West Virginia have closed in the past decade for similar reasons.
With our primary source of income no longer operational, we have been left with a significant debt load that we are struggling to manage. While we do receive money from the state, county levy, fundraising events, and donations, there is a significant shortfall. Although we bear the namesake and reside within the Town of Star City, we do not receive any funding or support and are instead billed by them for our water, sewage, and trash services. This is unique to us as other volunteer departments, such as Granville and Westover, receive financial support from their respective municipalities.
Additionally, we are the busiest all-volunteer department in the county and run mutual aid with many of our neighboring departments. This leads to significantly greater operational costs when compared to the smaller and more rural departments. Currently, the county levy provides an even disbursement to each volunteer fire department. As a result, we have significantly higher fuel, repair, and preventative maintenance costs but receive significantly less money on a per-call basis.
We are continuing to work with our creditors and are grateful to the Monongalia County Commission for meeting with us and starting the conversation with the WV State Auditor. As we work through this process, we are continuing our operations and will provide the same level of service to the community. In the interest of transparency, we will continue to be open and provide more information as we receive it.
Thank you for your continued support!Star City Volunteer Fire Department