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Firefighters' pensions approved

September 26, 2000

Firefighters' pensions approved



By SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer


The Washington County Commissioners Tuesday adopted a retirement program for longtime firefighters that is expected to cost the county more than $8 million over the next 15 years.

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The Length of Service Awards Program will give benefits to firefighters and Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association support personnel with more than 25 years of service.

An estimated 250 eligible employees will receive a $200 monthly minimum retirement payment starting in January 2007. Volunteers participating in the program will receive benefits at age 62.

The county previously budgeted a $350,000 initial contribution for the program. That amount, which will increase by 5 percent annually, will be $367,500 in the next fiscal year.

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The amount will increase to about $517,000 a year in 2008 and will reach $727,624 in fiscal year 2015, Human Resources Director Alan J. Davis said. The money will come from the general fund.

In the long run the program will benefit the firefighters and the community, Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said.

Commissioner William J. Wivell expressed concern about the county committing funds for future commissioners.

Money for the program will be wisely invested and financing for the program will be examined annually, Davis said.

An earlier version of the plan called for the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association to pay some of the program costs, but the present version does not, Davis said.

The county can't find documentation showing whether the prior board of commissioners' intent when giving the program informal general approval in 1998 was for the association to pay some of the costs, Davis said.

The association and the County Commissioners have been working in recent months to finalize details.

"I think this is definitely a big step toward preserving some level of a volunteer system in Washington County. It's an incentive for me to hang on," said Richard Roche, a volunteer with Long Meadow Volunteer Fire Department.

"It's a wonderful thing. It's nice to know that they support the volunteer system," said Smithsburg Emergency Medical Services Chief Jason Sturm, a 10-year volunteer.

"It's good that the commissioners are thinking of volunteers and how valuable volunteers are to the community," said Long Meadow firefighter Justin Mayhue.

He said the retirement program will be a helpful recruiting tool.

"Volunteers don't join for the money, but in this day in age you have to give some kind of benefits," he said.

Mayhue compared the volunteer system to a baseball team that relies on the strengths of its veterans for a winning season.

"If people leave, we will have no veterans to make the team strong and will have to continually be training new recruits," he said.

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