Washington Co. emergency service panel's level of authority debated

September 18, 2012|By DON AINES |
  • Washington County Director of Emergency Services Kevin Lewis, left, and Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association President Dale Hill appears before the board of county commissioners Tuesday during a discussion about the county's Emergency Services Advisory Council.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — The Washington County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday picked up on a discussion from last week about revamping the county’s Emergency Services Advisory Council and its bylaws.

Part of the task will be deciding whether the board is advisory or has some authority over fire and ambulance services.

“The really important thing for this group to do is decide ... a purpose and a mission” for the committee, Commissioner William McKinley said.

Director of Emergency Services Kevin Lewis and Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association President Dale Hill met with the commissioners to discuss changes in the advisory committee, which also would consolidate the functions of the county’s Fire and Rescue Advisory Committee.

One question McKinley posed to Lewis and Hill is whether they thought the advisory council should have authority or oversight over the fire and ambulance services, or stick to its advisory role.

“That a very challenging question,” Lewis said.

Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham said there are advisory groups such as those for the airport and economic development commission that have no authority but bring issues before the commissioners.

McKinley said he envisioned something like the county’s Planning Commission, which is advisory but also has some statutory authority.

The current seven-member committee is composed of a member of the board of commissioners serving as the chairman, three members from the fire and rescue association and three members of the public, according to the bylaws. It also has ex-officio, or nonvoting, members.

Callaham said she would like a committee with more citizen representation.

Lewis, Hill and the board discussed a possible membership plan that would include six at-large members of the community and three members of the association, one each from the fire and ambulance services and one administrator.

A county commissioner could serve as a nonvoting liaison to the committee, it was suggested.

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