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Fire, rescue services report to be submitted

September 14, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

A controversial $89,850 consultant's report expected to include recommendations about changes to and funding for Washington County fire and rescue services will be submitted to the Washington County Commissioners in the next three weeks, the consultant said Tuesday.

The consultant, Carroll Buracker, president of Carroll Buracker and Associates Inc. of Harrisonburg, Va., would not reveal the contents of the report, including whether it recommends a fire tax.

The County Commissioners originally ordered the six-month comprehensive study on Oct. 28, 1997.

An earlier version of the report was rejected in June 1998 because it contained errors and did not make clear recommendations about whether a fire tax should be approved or fire stations consolidated, Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said.

Buracker, president of the firm, said the county did not provide adequate data to enable the report to make a strong recommendation. The consultant has since collected more information and will present recommendations in the new draft of the report, he said.

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The commissioners discussed the report at Tuesday's meeting. Buracker was not present.

The commissioners also were scheduled to discuss whether to seek legislative authority to institute a fire tax, if they so choose, but that item was postponed until a later meeting.

Tuesday's discussion was prompted by a suggestion by Lawrence Johns, chairman of the Washington County Emergency Services Council, that the council be disbanded and, later, reformed in order to look at the completed consultant's study.

The commissioners decided to keep the existing council after some members are replaced.

The council has not met since January 1998 because members have been waiting for the consultant's report to be finished, Johns said.

Since the council last met, four new county commissioners were elected, Johns noted. Only Snook was re-elected.

The council was created in the summer of 1996 to create a plan to provide good fire protection and rescue services countywide, Johns said. The group suggested the county fund a consultant to study existing services and make recommendations, he said.

In June 1998 the council and the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association read a draft of the 400-page report but returned it because it was incomplete, Johns said.

"We were very, very displeased," Johns said. It contained numerous errors, including the number of fire trucks, Johns said.

Buracker said it is not fair to blame them for any errors. The consultants used the information provided to them, he said.

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