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CRS urged to change financial practices

July 04, 2002|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

The president of the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association said Community Rescue Service directors should evaluate the way the company is being run and find money within its budget to help solve the ongoing financial woes of the county's most active ambulance company.

"There's no corporation in the county that would exist if it's operating in the deficit," association president Jason Baer said. "Somewhere along the line, there has to be some radical changes made."

Community Rescue Service and the county's other 26 fire and rescue companies belong to the association.

Baer said the association probably wouldn't support CRS receiving additional state grant funding because it would mean that the county's smaller fire and rescue companies would receive less.

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"If we were to take a vote today, it would be rejected tremendously," Baer said. "I think I can say that pretty honestly."

Community Rescue Service Executive Director J. Michael Nye said last week that the private organization was shortchanged when the Washington County Commissioners divided a $224,748 state fire and rescue grant equally among the county's fire and rescue companies.

Each of the companies will receive $8,324. As a result, Nye said CRS might have to reduce services if it doesn't receive more support from the commissioners.

CRS cut five ambulance positions in January to save money.

Nye said the distribution should have been based on the number of calls a company receives. Because CRS receives the most calls in the county, it should have received the majority of the funds, or about $73,285, he said.

Smaller companies that receive about 100 to 200 calls a year should have received less, Nye said.

"Any less would jeopardize their budgets," Baer said.

Baer said the county always has handed out the state funds equally among the companies and that the majority of the counties in Maryland distribute the money the same way.

Glenn Fishack, president of the Smithsburg Volunteer Fire Company, said he doesn't support the funds being handed out based on workload. He said the company is upset that CRS is asking for additional funding and is tired of hearing about its money problems.

He said CRS should use more volunteers and fewer paid employees to cut costs.

"We're just really upset," Fishack said. "I just don't understand how they can always want money, money, money. We'd like to have money, money, money and so would every other company in this area."

Nye said CRS was depending on the county commissioners to renew a $50,000 grant for the 2003 fiscal year, but that the county instructed him to remove it from the budget.

County officials said they never guaranteed that CRS would receive the $50,000.

Fishack said that if the county had been willing to give CRS the grant, then other fire and rescue companies should have received additional funding as well.

"Nobody's shooting to get the fire companies any additional funds," Fishack said. "Every time that whistle blows, my people's lives are on the line. It's very important for the fire people to get their fair share."

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