• Rescue squad on brink of shutting down

    By: Dave Faherty


    CATAWBA COUNTY, N.C. - A rescue squad that has saved lives for six decades may be forced to close.

    Channel 9 was at the scene when Hickory Rescue Squad members pulled a man out of a well in 2011.

    Now, allegations of mismanaged money could bring about the end of the rescue squad.

    The county stopped paying the rescue squad at the end of February, even though the workers are still running calls. 

    Chief Cameron Gardin showed Channel 9 some of the equipment the Hickory Rescue Squad uses to save lives like when the man accidentally fell into a well.  

    "Anything from damming and diking, to ladders where we've had to set up actual tripods to raise people out of that well scenario," Gardin said.

    But those services could come to an end after the county sent a letter alerting the rescue squad that Catawba County was ending its agreement that funds two full-paid positions and several part-time jobs. 

    The rescue squad allegedly paid one of its own board members for financial services at a cost that was very excessive compared with similar fire departments and rescue squads in the area. 

    County officials said that the rescue squad also did not provide documentation of the agreement.

    Crews Rescue Man From Catawba County Well

    Channel 9 asked the rescue squad's board president about the county's decision.

    "There has been no mismanagement of money, when you consider the work he did for us, which was more extensive than some rescue squads use,” Allen Biggerstaff, who is with the rescue squad, said.

    This has people living in Vale, Mountain View and Cookeville communities concerned about what will happen if the rescue squad closes.  Resident like Selena Speagle, whose nephew was the one pulled from the well.

    "It's scary to think that it would take longer for them to get out here and rescue someone,” Speagle said. “We would hate to see them leave."

    The rescue squad said it has three months before it's forced to close. The county said it's working with other providers to ensure services in this area.

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