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Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co. task force starts work

Members started their three-month assignment by mapping out a possible schedule for future meetings and figuring out what documents they'll want to review

August 15, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com

A task force studying the operations of the suspended Fairplay Volunteer Fire Company met for the first time on Wednesday — minus the fire company’s two representatives.

Charles R. Summers, Washington County’s deputy director of emergency service, said the two Fairplay Volunteer Fire Company representatives — President Bill Pennington and Chief Leonard Heller — couldn’t attend. Both had other commitments, Summers said.

Allen James, chief of the Sharpsburg Volunteer Fire Company, also was absent.

The other 10 members of the task force started their three-month assignment by mapping out a possible schedule for future meetings and figuring out what documents they’ll want to review.

The task force was created by the Washington County Board of Commissioners in response to the fire company’s history of not responding quickly to calls.

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The commissioners voted 4-1 last month to suspend the fire company indefinitely. The task force will have three months to come up with possible solutions for getting the fire company running again, efficiently.

Without Pennington and Heller, the conversation shifted to comments about alleged conflicts within the fire company that might be getting in the way of operations.

Task force member James Sprecher Jr. said he has a list of 28 people who are no longer Fairplay Volunteer Fire Company members, many with good firefighting experience. He said some were dismissed from the company for failing to pay $1 in dues, which he called “ludicrous.”

Sprecher acknowledged that he was only hearing “horror stories” from one side.

Task force member Kevin Clipp, a member of the fire company’s standing committee, or governing board, said firefighters are restricted in what bathrooms they can use.

“It sounds like it was a power struggle going on,” task force member Paul E. “Ed” Lewis said.

Task force members agreed that their goal is getting the fire company back on solid ground.

They brainstormed a lengthy list of fire company records they want to see, including the bylaws, the charter, an inventory of apparatus and equipment, training records, budgets, meeting minutes, standard operating procedures and call records.

Summers said he expects at least some of those records to be available by the next meeting.

Wednesday’s meeting was held at Washington County’s emergency management office on Elliott Parkway near Williamsport.

About a half-dozen people not on the task force sat in and listened.

Midway through the meeting, one man in the audience said, “I’ve heard enough” and walked out.

The task force agreed to meet again Monday at 7 p.m. Summers said he will try to get a site closer to Fairplay — possibly the Washington County Agricultural Education Center on Sharpsburg Pike.

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