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Replace Reed with a pro

March 24, 1997

Three years ago this month, after two years of wrangling over the job description, the Washington County Commissioners hired the county's first fire coordinator. Now that Roger "Jerry" Reed is leaving the post, the county's Volunteer Fire/Rescue Association wants the position turned into a glorified secretary. If the commissioners cave in on this issue, they deserve all the confusion that such an abdication of leadership would bring.

Citizens and the volunteers themselves deserve better, which is why we hope the commissioners will hire someone who's capable of doing more than paperwork for the association and for county residents.

The recent proposal to increase the fire/rescue companies' share of tip-jar gambling proceeds to build a new county fire training center is just one example of an issue the county needs some in-house expertise on. It's not at all clear right now if there's a need for the $625,000 facility, given that the City of Hagerstown already has a center that might be upgraded for joint use.

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Other issues that demand more savvy than is usually found in the secretarial pool include the proposal to enact a county fire tax. Forty percent of tip-jar money collected by the Washington County Gaming Commission now goes to the fire/rescue companies with no requirement that they submit a budget stating how it will be used. Such a liberal approach won't happen with county tax dollars, no matter how they're collected. And getting the companies to cooperate on things like joint purchasing, inter-company use of paid personnel and the like won't happen without someone knowledgeable handling the negotiations.

Washington County's fire/rescue service is made up of a group of committed individuals who give hours of their time each week, for no pay, to keep their neighbors safe and in good health. We've known some dedicated professional secretaries in our time, but with all due respect to them, fire/rescue service members need someone with a few more credentials to represent them before the county board.

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