For the first time since the 1980s, the Boone County Fire Protection District board voted unanimously to increase the value of gas vouchers given to volunteer first responders.
Board member John Gordon said gas vouchers have been a part of the fire district since the early 1970s. The purpose of the vouchers is to reimburse first responders — such as volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians — who often arrive on the scene of an incident in their personal vehicles.
By giving out vouchers, the district seeks to eliminate the financial burden put on each volunteer. Originally, the vouchers were worth $2; they were raised to $3 in the 1980s, Gordon said. They remained at $3 until the Oct. 20 vote, when they were increased to $5.
Gordon said he first became aware of the issue during his 2004 campaign. At that time, he said, one of his opponents wanted the board to increase the vouchers’ value. Intrigued, Gordon began looking into the matter after his election. He and other board members agreed that it was not a question of whether the value of gas vouchers should be increased, but by how much.
“We had talked about it in an informal manner,” Gordon said. “I was hopeful that we could get the majority of the board to agree.”
Board member Myrtle Rapp said the voucher issue was “nothing new” and had been discussed for some time. She agreed that the increase was necessary.
Board President Willis Smith did not return phone calls for comment.
Board members were not the only ones who saw a need to increase the value of the gas vouchers. Concerned Citizens for Boone County, the group circulating a petition to recall Smith, listed low gas voucher amounts among its many criticisms of the fire district. Glenda Castrop, a member of the group, said she saw the increase as a step in the right direction.
“I’m very glad that took place, because that’s one of the recommendations we made to the board,” Castrop said.
Fire Chief Steve Paulsell spoke briefly about the gas vouchers at the Oct. 20 board meeting. He said they were a point of pride for the department and reflect the commitment and motivation of the volunteers.
“I have proudly spoken of the fact that this organization does not need to give its firefighters trinkets, belt buckles, coffee mugs and mouse pads as rewards,” Paulsell said. “In addition to the gas vouchers — which are being increased, by the way, in response to the ever-increasing cost of gas — these fine volunteers ask only that they have the best equipment and training money can buy.”