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Task force chosen to review Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co.

August 07, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com
  • The Washington County commissioners voted 4-1 last week to indefinitely suspend the Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co. for its recent history of poor response times. The commissioners also agreed to withhold county funding and create a task force to recommend solutions.
Herald-Mail file photo

All 13 spots on a task force examining the Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co. have been filled.

The Washington County commissioners made their five appointments Tuesday, as fire and rescue entities announced their choices.

The commissioners voted 4-1 last week to indefinitely suspend the fire company for its recent history of poor response times. The commissioners also agreed to withhold county funding and create a task force to recommend solutions.

The task force has been asked to make a report within three months about how the fire company can start back up and provide good service. After that review is finished, the company can apply for reinstatement, which is not guaranteed.

The county commissioners were asked to name five people living in the Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co. coverage area to the task force. They are:

  • From Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham: Paul Miller, executive director of the Humane Society of Washington County
  • From Commissioner John F. Barr: Jeb Eckstine
  • From Commissioner Terry L. Baker: Paul E. “Ed” Lewis
  • From Commissioner Jeffrey A. Cline: Kevin Clipp
  • From Commissioner William B. McKinley: Charles “Ed” Wines Jr.

At a commissioners’ meeting last week, Clipp, Eckstine and others said Fairplay’s problems can be tied to its president, Bill Pennington, and chief, Leonard Heller.

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Pennington and Heller also were named to the task force, representing the fire company.

Other task force members are:

  • From Sharpsburg Volunteer Fire Co.: Allen James, chief
  • From Williamsport Volunteer Fire and EMS: Tim Ammons, an engine operator and firefighter
  • From The First Hose Co. of Boonsboro: Oley Griffith, chief
  • From Funkstown Volunteer Fire Co.: Steve Pifer, a lieutenant
  • From the Washington County Division of Emergency Services: Charles R. Summers, deputy director
  • From the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association: James Sprecher Jr., second vice president, who is with Antietam Fire Co. in Hagerstown.

Kevin L. Lewis, Washington County’s director of emergency services, said the task force could start meeting as early as next week.

McKinley suggested four areas for the task force to consider: how Fairplay should operate, how to implement an operations plan, a financial review and the company’s future leadership.

Callaham asked about the format and openness of the meetings. She said there should be no “closed-door, back-room, any kind of deals cut” and urged “that the dialogue you folks have is as open as this county can make it.”

County Administrator Gregory B. Murray said the meetings will be of county appointees and need to be open, so the public can observe.

Murray plans to sit in on the meetings and report back to the county commissioners.

During an interview Tuesday afternoon, County Attorney John M. Martirano agreed that the meetings should be considered public and open. A request to close a meeting could be considered if it fits into the limited exemptions allowed by Maryland’s Open Meetings Act, he said.

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