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Equal funding recommended

July 30, 2002|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

It appears that a $224,748 state grant will again be doled out in equal portions to Washington County's 27 fire and rescue companies for at least one more year, until a better plan can be devised.

Members of the Emergency Services Advisory Council voted Monday to recommend that the Washington County Commissioners continue the current distribution of $8,324 to each company regardless of size, number of runs or territory covered.

One issue that came up Monday night was the decision to give each of the six Hagerstown fire companies a portion totaling nearly $50,000.

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Council member Dr. Lawrence Johns said the city has always gotten the money, not the company. "That's by design," Johns said. "The City of Hagerstown buys the fire trucks that go in the fire halls that are owned by the volunteer fire companies."

Council member Jay Grimes said Hagerstown is deserving since all that money is spent on fire protection.

J. Michael Nye, executive director of Community Rescue Service, the largest ambulance company in the county, said in June that CRS should get a larger portion because it might have to cut services if it doesn't receive more financial support from the commissioners.

CRS is a private, nonprofit ambulance company that serves about 35,000 homes and businesses in and around Hagerstown on a budget of $1.8 million. It has 20 full-time and 40 part-time staff members.

Council member Wayne Williams had another view Monday night. "Every company here needs equipment no matter how many calls it goes on," Williams said. "I think it should remain the same, equal."

Joe Kroboth, director of emergency services, brought in more than a dozen models of how the money could be distributed so council members could study them. But the consensus was to continue using the equal slices of the pie plan.

Jason Baer, president of the Washington County Fire and Rescue Association, said $224,000 won't buy one fire engine. "This money isn't going to break any company here."

He said for some companies, the county's $40,000 annual contribution plus the $8,324 may only be less than 10 percent of the annual budget to fund operations. CRS falls into that category, Baer said.

Other smaller companies may depend on that money for 20 percent, 40 percent or 70 percent of their existence, Baer said.

When voting in June to continue the equal split at least one more year, the commissioners said they would evaluate methods of distributing the state funds next year.

Kroboth said a study of emergency medical services operations in Washington County showing response times, personnel and equipment needs should be completed by October.

"Using response time as a criteria, we could be looking at changing staffing, the number of ambulances and even where ambulance halls are located," Kroboth said.

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