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Fire, rescue merger mulled

December 04, 2000

Fire, rescue merger mulled



By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writer


SHARPSBURG - Fire and ambulance company officials here are considering a merger but they fear such a union would decrease their individual cash allotments from Washington County.

More than a year ago, the companies talked of merging but abandoned the idea after a financial consultant said it wasn't feasible if it meant losing the $40,000 given to each company by the county government.

The deterioration of Sharpsburg Fire Department's station and the need to expand the Sharpsburg Area Emergency Medical Services' station has forced the issue once again, said Sharpsburg Volunteer Fire Co. Chief Jeremy Gay.

Washington County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said Monday he supports companies merging and doesn't believe they should be punished for doing so by losing funding.

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He said the Washington County Commissioners haven't formally discussed the matter.

Merging makes sense because it will save the companies money on utilities and improve fund-raising efforts, said Gay.

Both companies have formed committees to discuss plans for a merger. If they do merge, they will need to decide whether to build a new station to house both companies or add on to Sharpsburg ambulance company's building, said Gay.

Also to be decided is whether the companies will retain their autonomy or be run by one set of officers.

There is also the issue of paid employees. The fire company has no paid personnel but the ambulance company has one full-time paramedic and 16 part-time paid paramedics.

"I feel confident we can work things out," said Gay.

He said many of the members of both companies have cross-training in fire and medical skills so they would be able to assist each other on calls.

Neither company can afford to build new stations on their own, said Tim Gargana of Sharpsburg Area Emergency Medical Services.

To help the companies, Sharpsburg Town Council recently agreed to hire a grant writer to apply for funds in the form of grants or low interest loans.

The next steps will be for each company to lay out its options, said Gargana.

"We want to do what's best for the community and not lose funding," he said.

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