Bill could ease mutual aid process

By Sunni Blevins - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

HANOVER, VA (WWBT) – Mutual aid in Virginia could soon get a little bit easier. Hanover County Delegate Christopher Peace is asking the General Assembly to make the process of counties and cities helping each other less complicated.

If passed, this code will set precedent statewide, but Hanover County is one of the places that stand to benefit the most. Hanover touches five counties but only has official mutual aid agreements with two of those right now.

This ambulance stationed out of the Blackcreek Fire Station routinely runs calls in both Hanover and New Kent Counties. It says so right on the side: a showcase of mutual aid.

"We provide staff four days; New Kent supplies staff one day, and they supply us an ambulance," said Battalion Chief William Jones.

Hanover County also has a standing mutual aid agreement with neighboring Henrico County.

"Henrico was here doing the big hotel fire; we were in Henrico when they had that big junkyard fire," Jones said.

Battalion Chief William Jones says mutual aid is necessary, but not always easy. There is a lot of paperwork and legal issues to think about.

"It's a liability factor; if one of our companies goes to New Kent, and we have an accident or heaven forbid somebody got hurt seriously, where is the blame? Who's going to pay for these type things?" he said.

A new bill aims to answer that question, and make it easier for cities and counties to help each other.  If passed, state code would allow local government leaders to work out joint aid agreements amongst themselves without the need for an emergency declaration or mountains of paperwork, which is the system now. And it's not just for emergency services, other departments may benefit. Last year for example, Hanover provided an interim county attorney to King William. Instead of complicated an inter-jurisdictional agreement each time, the proposed bill would allow the county administrator to just decide case by case whether to give assistance and how much to charge for it.

NBC12 spoke with Delegate Chris Peace about this legislation today. He says so far it's received positive feedback, and he's confident it will sail through the General Assembly.

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