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Washington County schools review billing dispute over classroom use

Interim chief of Division of Fire and Rescue Services disputes charges

Interim chief of Division of Fire and Rescue Services disputes charges

February 28, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Washington County Public Schools officials are reviewing a billing dispute involving the use of school classrooms by the county's emergency services employees.

Officials said Tuesday that Kevin L. Lewis, interim director of the Division of Fire and Rescue Services, wrote a letter to school system officials saying he does not believe the division should have been charged for using classrooms at South Hagerstown High School for paramedic training last year. The classrooms were used to offer training in advanced life support.

Operations Manager Tony Mayhugh said Lewis was disputing a charge of $217 for the use of the building on Nov. 3, 2007, and a bill for $265 for the use of the facility on three other occasions.

"What we charged them was our standard rate of $6 per hour for the classrooms," Mayhugh said Tuesday during a Board of Education committee meeting.

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The group also was charged custodial fees for using the classrooms on a Saturday.

In his letter, Lewis stated that the division has trained some science teachers for free. Officials were unsure whether that was this training, or other sessions.

Lewis said in a telephone interview Wednesday that the emergency management training provided to school staff was not held during the days in question. His division and the schools have been involved in collaborative training, and the schools were not charged for that on-site training, he said.

Because of the collaborative efforts, Lewis did not expect to be charged for using the facility, he said.

"They were under the understanding there would be no fees," Mayhugh said.

Board Vice President Donna Brightman said she would like to know why the group was not told there would be a fee for using the facilities.

According to the school system's application to use facilities, which the Division of Fire and Rescue Services filled out prior to using the classrooms, the fee to use a classroom is $24 for up to four hours of use, and $6 for each hour beyond that.

The custodial fee, which was applied because the group used the building on a Saturday, was $100 for up to four hours of use, and $25 for each hour beyond that, according to the document.

"My first reaction is not to charge them," Brightman said. "But if they didn't know up front that they were going to be charged, that concerns me."

Boyd Michael, assistant superintendent for school operations, said it is possible the group had used classrooms before, but never filled out an application and had not been charged.

Mayhugh said the group is scheduled to use the classrooms one Saturday each month through June.

Board Member Wayne D. Ridenour said he had no problem waiving the fee one time, but said that since it is an ongoing use, it will be costly to the school system.

Officials said they plan to review the dispute before making a decision.

Staff writer Erin Julius contributed to this story.

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