Thursday, January 19, 2012

Issues make the candidate ... Fishersville fire & emergency concerns

Kurt Michael, Augusta County community leader

In  my campaign manager book, it talks about how issues make candidates. No where is that more evident that the fire and emergency issue that came up in 2010 in Augusta County.

Residents in Fishersville are safer, thanks to community involvement from residents Kurt Michael, Al Dahler, and other homeowner association leaders who stepped to the plate and took an active role in beefing up fire and emergency response in their community.

After Yancey Fire Department received a failed ISO ranking -- a number that is used by insurance companies when considering emergency coverage for home owners -- increased insurance premiums began showing up in mailboxes, the first signal to residents that something was wrong.

Now, some home owners have seen those premiums that had doubled in some instances begin to level back down to normal range with the improved coverage that came about after two years of attending meetings and listening to recommendations. Even with the improvements, however, there's still much more work to do.

Reporter Calvin Trice wrote in Tuesday's Staunton News Leader:
It is still early, said Kurt Michael, who represented a group of homeowners associations that lobbied supervisors to beef up service.

But, he added, "I think the county has taken positive steps in correcting the problems, and as a result we will see lower (insurance) rates, if not now, in the future."

Al Dahler, a Fishersville resident who also is a columnist for The News Leader, saw the annual premium on his three-bedroom, 2,500-square-feet townhouse in the Teaverton area drop from $784 last year to $368 this year, he said.

Dahler said homeowner agitation, led by Michael, and changes adopted by the Board of Supervisors have made it more likely that fire engines will show up to blazes faster and with a chance to save lives and property.
Involvement by concerned citizens is what made a difference in an issue that may have languished in the background if not for the attention drawn to it by community leaders.

Because of his activism, Michael was approached by many to run for Wayne District supervisor in 2011 and he garnered 47% of the vote including the precincts that are in the Yancey Fire Department area. It wasn't enough to win but left an impression with the community of a leader who had a grasp of not only the fire and emergency issues but other concerns important to Augusta County.

Thursday's Staunton News Leader editorial, "Yancey fiasco didn't have to happen," follows up on this issue and notes:
It was a problem that shouldn't have been. When the volunteer fire service in a densely populated part of Augusta County began to fail, the county board of supervisors had every opportunity to fix the situation. But rather than taking charge, the supervisors let the Preston L. Yancey Volunteer Fire Co. languish, and before a grassroots effort was set into motion, even Fishersville residents' homeowners' insurance rates jumped.
In a situation that could have left families without a home or even resulted in the loss of life, The News Leader hailed Michael's leadership:
... the grassroots effort led by Kurt Michael, president of the Emerald Hills Homeowners' Association, brought the necessary attention. The board of supervisors responded by adding paid firefighters to the Yancey station and boosting mutual aid agreements with neighboring paid departments.
The citizens of Fishersville are safer today, thanks for the hard work of dedicated community leaders.

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