Group takes over Sharpsburg EMS

August 13, 1997


Staff Writer

SHARPSBURG - The Washington County Fire & Rescue Association agreed Wednesday to take over daily operations of the troubled Sharpsburg ambulance company while its longtime chief takes a leave of absence.

Jay Grimes, president of the association, presided at a meeting of the Sharpsburg Emergency Medical Services board of directors Wednesday night. He said Chief Larry Myers submitted a letter to the board saying he intended to take a 30-day leave due to stress.

Grimes said he and new association administrative assistant Robert P. Cumberland will oversee the strife-ridden rescue company for the next 60 days.


In an interview Wednesday afternoon, Myers said there was a "power struggle" that threatened to harm the company. Myers, who has been chief for the last 13 years, said he hoped the fire and rescue association could bring order.

"It's probably going to take six months for things to get straightened out," he said. "I've never seen anything like this."

Myers, who could not be reached after the meeting, made no reference to a letter requesting a leave of absence.

Grimes' primary task will be to rebuild an ambulance company that has been torn apart by internal divisions in recent months. Company members have described disputes that have affected operations and driven away members.

One of the first steps will be to hire two professional paramedics to cover the station from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. when volunteers normally are scarce, Grimes said. Together, those positions would cost about $45,000 per year, but Grimes said they may be only temporary if enough volunteers come forward.

Grimes tried to reassure anxious members that he was not trying push out volunteers, adding that available volunteers will take precedence over career staff on calls.

"We're not going to put the volunteers out to pasture. That's not the intent of this," he said.

Grimes also will try to smooth over differences among members and bring back volunteers who have recently quit. He said the state requires rescue companies to have at least 10 active emergency medical technicians. Sharpsburg has five.

"The only way to make it work is to bury the hatchet," he said.

At the same time, the association has taken steps to correct the company's chaotic billing procedures. Pam Sanders, of Antietam Enterprises, has been working for the ambulance company for about a month updating its billing.

Sanders said the billing had not been done for six months when she arrived. She estimated she is about 80 percent caught up.

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