Staunton, Va. -- October 12, 2009 -- Staunton City Councilman Richard P. "Dickie" Bell voted against building Staunton's new fire station but he voted for spending $600,000 on the city's public golf course, which raises questions for Bell's opponent, Democratic nominee for 20th District Delegate Erik Curren.
Residents of the 20th District take fire and rescue protection for granted. But when a family or business suffers the tragedy of a major fire or other emergency, their distance from the nearest fire station can mean the difference between life and death, or between damage and demolition.
"Firefighters and other first responders risk their lives daily," said Curren. "Surely we owe firefighters the resources they need to get to the scene as quickly as possible. And we owe it to our families and businesses to make sure that our communities have sufficient fire stations to keep us safe."
Curren questions whether 20th District Republican nominee Dickie Bell appreciates the importance of adequately funding fire and rescue services.
"In this campaign, my opponent has said that he would fund core services at the state level. Yet, he refused to support expanding fire protection in Staunton. Does that mean he would not adequately fund public safety, a key core service, at the state level? Voters have a right to know."
Despite Bell's no-vote, Staunton did approve and build Fire and Rescue Station Number Two on Grubert Avenue. Since it opened in the spring of 2006, the new substation has already saved lives and prevented millions of dollars in property damage, according to local officials.
When fire breaks out, every minute in response time is crucial, because a fire can double in size every 30 seconds and completely engulf a building in seven minutes. With the new substation, 96% of the city is within five minutes of a firehouse, according to Staunton Fire Chief Scott Garber.
Curiously, though he voted against the fire station, Bell voted to spend more than $600,000 to pay for a new irrigation system for Staunton's public golf course in Gypsy Hill Park. Bell himself is an avid golfer who plays at the course on a regular basis.
"My opponent's priorities seem mixed up," Curren said. "Does he consider golf to be a core service of government? My opponent seems to think that taxpayers should pay for a golf course but not for better fire protection. Voters are right to ask, if my opponent were sent to Richmond, would he put special interests and frivolous spending ahead of the public interest and core services like transportation, education, and public safety? If so, that's not fiscal conservatism -- that's fiscal irresponsibility."