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No answers, no money

Commissioners plan to push Western Enterprise to explain expenses

April 14, 2012|By ARNOLD S. PLATOU | arnoldp@herald-mail.com
  • Western Enterprise Fire Co. Expense reports include puzzles
Western Enterprise Fire Co. Expense reports include puzzles

A volunteer fire company that refused last year to explain to The Herald-Mailmore than $100,000 in expenses might face questions this year from the Washington County government.

A majority of the county commissioners said in late March that they will press Western Enterprise Fire Co. for an explanation before the county sends the volunteer-owned Hagerstown company any more public aid.

“There should be some explanation,” Commissioner Jeffrey Cline said. “I was surprised in today’s world of disclosure that someone wasn’t willing or able to bring full disclosure” to this.

Commissioners William McKinley, John Barr and Cline said in separate interviews with the newspaper that they will push for answers before sending any more subsidies to Western Enterprise.

Told the commissioners have such questions, newly elected fire company President Mike Kline told the newspaper March 26, “OK, they can come.”

But Kline refused to comment on the situation. “Don’t call me no more,” he said.

The commissioners’ push for accountability is the latest attempt by public officials to find out more about the inner workings of the fire company.

The state’s attorney for Washington County is reviewing the results of an investigation by Maryland State Police into alleged improprieties involving gaming at Western Enterprise, according to Lt. Tom Woodward, commander of the Hagerstown barrack.

“It’s currently under active review by my office,” State’s Attorney Charles Strong said Friday. “I hope to conclude the matter shortly.”

The investigation was requested by city Police Chief Arthur Smith after a preliminary investigation by the county Office of Community Grant Management. The probe centers around questions of whether the fire company violated state gaming law by paying people to help conduct gaming, and whether individuals were profiting from the gaming.

In the meantime, it’s now been five years since the fire company has sent any of its own volunteers out to fight a fire.

The paid crew members that the city fire department assigns to Western Enterprise’s station do respond. And the station itself does house a city fire engine and ladder truck, as well as a Community Rescue Service ambulance and crew.

But none of the members that Western Enterprise recruited, trained and outfitted over the years has gone to fight a fire since April 2007, which raises questions about some of the fire company’s spending in recent years, city Fire Chief W. Kyd Dieterich said previously.

“Why does a company that doesn’t have any riding members have these types of expenses for training or travel or what have you?” Dieterich asked late last year.

“I don’t question them attending the conventions, it’s just the amount of money” that’s being spent, Dieterich said. “It’s like, wow!”

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