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City wants meeting with county on fire service issues

February 13, 1997

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

Hagerstown's mayor and City Council want to meet with the Washington County Commissioners to discuss fire service issues, including why they were never notified the county had withheld funding from city fire departments for four months.

The county issues funding to county and city fire departments quarterly. Each of the city's six fire companies receive $20,000 a year, while county volunteer companies receive $40,000 a year, said Hagerstown Fire Chief Gary Hawbaker.

The city companies didn't receive their August checks until December because the commissioners wanted city fire equipment to meet county standards, said Tom Cochrane, the city's representative on a county emergency service committee.

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"We were never notified of any deficiency," Hawbaker said.

"I can't understand why we didn't get a memo from the county," said Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein. The mayor and City Council learned about the check delays on Tuesday.

The city companies received their checks after the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association advised the commissioners that city fire equipment was up to standard, city officials said.

Hawbaker said the city has its own standards for fire equipment, which vary slightly from the county's. One reason for the difference is that city companies serve an urban area.

For example, the county requires every fire truck to have a bucket, while the city has buckets only on ladder trucks, Hawbaker said.

Other fire issues city officials want to discuss with the commissioners include the possibility of instituting a fire tax and preventing duplication of services.

Mayor Steven T. Sager said the city should be exempt from any fire tax or property tax hikes to increase funding for county fire companies.

The city fire companies also should receive $40,000 a year from the county - the same amount the county companies get, Sager said.

City officials also said they can't understand why county officials want to build their own training center when the city has one that county firefighters can use.

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