County approves volunteers' pension


County approves volunteers' pension

A new program to provide pensions to volunteers who put in 25 years with fire and rescue companies was unanimously approved Thursday by the Washington County Commissioners.

The commissioners agreed to make a $150,000 contribution for the program in the next budget year, which begins July 1. Another $135,000 would come from the fire and rescue companies, divided up by $5,000 per company.

"We're hoping this, as it does in other counties, creates some incentives for people to volunteer," said Jay Grimes, president of the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association.


Under the program, retired volunteers over age 65 with at least 25 years of service would receive up to $350 a month.

Up to 15 years will be grandfathered into the program for volunteers already on the job.

Payments from the pension plan won't begin for at least 10 years, according to Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook.

County Commissioner James R. Wade made the motion as a compromise.

The Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association has been seeking funding for the program for years, and had requested $275,000 for the program next year.

Grimes had told the commissioners their contribution would be money well spent because it would help fire and rescue companies retain volunteers and thus reduce the number of paid personnel required.

Wade said the commissioners should remember that fire and rescue companies are getting $1 million in funding a year in tip jar proceeds funneled through the Washington County Gaming Commission, and should be able to fund at least a portion of the retirement program themselves.

Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers said he didn't favor using tip jar money to pay for a pension plan because that money might not be around forever.

The commissioners also agreed to fund a new fire instructor at the Career Studies Center at $30,000.

The $180,000 increase for fire and rescue funding would be about a 12 percent increase, for a total of $1.73 million.

Grimes had asked for an increase of $825,000, or 53 percent.

Requests that weren't included in the commissioners working budget include:

* $350,000 for a new fire training center at Hagerstown Junior College.

* $178,000 to cover half of the utility costs of fire and rescue companies.

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