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Grimes leaving fire post

March 20, 2000|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

After four years as president of the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association, Jay Grimes said he is tired of putting out fires - the political kind.

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"As soon as you put out one fire and there are two more waiting," he said.

Last week Grimes announced that he will be resigning as president of the association but was vague about the details.

During an association meeting at Long Meadow Volunteer Fire Department, he told members he will be turning all new questions and problems over to First Vice President Clinton Stouffer.

Elections will be held in May and a new president will take office on July 1.

"I want to finish what I've started," he said.

He said his unfinished business includes a new cable-access television channel that will be used to televise meetings and fires and provide the public with safety tips, Smithsburg Emergency Medical Service's territory dispute with Community Rescue Service over portions of Leitersburg Pike and Smithsburg Emergency Medical Service's request to operate a rescue squad, which has been opposed by the Smithsburg Fire Department as a duplication of services.

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When asked about Grimes' resignation announcement, Smithsburg Emergency Medical Services Chief Jason Sturm said, "It's time for a change."

Sturm said his reaction is a result length of the time it has taken to end the boundary dispute and get a rescue squad truck up and running.

Grimes said he doesn't want to leave, but he is spread too thin. In addition to his responsibilities as president of the association, he serves as president of the Williamsport Volunteer Fire Department and is employed by West Potomac Fire and Rescue Equipment.

"The job never seems to end," he said.

He said his decision to step down will not affect his standing with the Williamsport Volunteer Fire Department.

He declined to estimate the time it will take to finish his outstanding projects and formally hand the gavel to Stouffer.

Stouffer said he was surprised by Grimes' announcement.

"It was the first time he made mention of it," said Stouffer, who has served 27 years with the Leitersburg Fire Department.

Having been first vice president, Stouffer said he knows that the job of president will take a pair of strong shoulders, but he feels he is up to the task.

"Jay's done a very good job. He's been put on the spot a lot of times," Stouffer said.

Alan Matheny of the Volunteer Fire Company of Halfway agreed with Stouffer's sentiments.

"(Grimes) did a wonderful job for the association. He's brought us a long way and opened the lines of communication with the (Washington County) commissioners," Matheny said.

The position of president of the association is difficult, partly because it is hard to please everyone, said Phil Ridenour, chief of the Maugansville Goodwill Fire Co.

"Jay did a lot that people never seemed to realize for the individual departments. He got a lot of flak from some companies," Ridenour said.

Former Williamsport Ambulance Chief Dave Hays said over the years he has come to respect Grimes for his efforts as president.

A territory dispute with the Volunteer Fire Company of Halfway in which Williamsport lost ground showed Grimes' willingness to put himself out for the members of the association by working hard to get them financial reimbursement from the Washington County Commissioners, Hays said.

"Overall, I think Jay wants what's best for the fire and ambulance companies," he said. "Although we haven't always agreed, we eventually found a common ground and things worked for everybody's best interest."

Hays said in the future he would like to see the association place more emphasis on the needs of ambulance companies.

Smithsburg Volunteer Fire Department Chief Ron Jeeter said he understands Grimes' reasons for wanting out.

In the early 1990s Jeeter served two years as president of the association.

"I fought that battle. It's a very demanding position," he said.

Jeeter praised Grimes for his efforts in keeping the fire companies accountable to the public, ensuring uniformity with companies' computer equipment and for his rapport with the Washington County Commissioners.

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