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Task force member suggests clean slate at Fairplay

September 24, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com

After weeks of fact finding, a task force heard ideas Monday about how to change Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co. before restarting its operations.

Task force member Allen James shared his list of recommendations, including having Fairplay’s administrative officers resign and the company hold an election run by an outside group.

That idea sparked debate within the task force. Task force member Tim Almany agreed with James’ recommendations.

But task force member James Sprecher Jr. criticized the idea of an outside entity, such as the task force or the Washington County Board of Commissioners, deciding who may lead a private organization.

“I think then we’re opening the floodgates to a whole lot of things,” Sprecher said.

The county commissioners decided in July to suspend Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co. indefinitely because of its history in recent years of responding late or not at all to emergency calls, especially during daytime hours.

The commissioners created a task force to study the fire company’s operations for at least three months and come back with a report.

During Monday’s meeting at Rockland Woods Elementary School south of Hagerstown, James read his list of recommendations for the fire company.

Most pertained to the company’s bylaws, which, James said, should spell out provisions for topics such as meetings, elections, fiscal obligations and discipline.

James also called for a financial audit and an election, saying there has been “a lack of cooperation” in the current administration.

Paul Miller, the task force’s chairman, softened the idea, suggesting that Fairplay provide “an assurance plan” for addressing concerns the task force has raised.

The task force voted to consider James’ list of suggestions further at the next meeting. Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co.’s two representatives on the task force opposed the idea.

The task force also reviewed a plan Fairplay drafted earlier this year to hire drivers to respond to calls.

The proposal states that the company would budget $25,000 to pay for drivers for the rest of 2012 and $50,000 for 2013.

Paid drivers would be on duty from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The company would use its own volunteer drivers, too, when they’re available.

Drivers would be paid $10 an hour. The company would cover worker’s compensation costs, the proposal says.

The fire company hired a paid staffer who started working July 30, the day before the county commissioners suspended the company.

On Monday, task force members also reviewed Fairplay’s standard operating procedures.

In addition, they heard that the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association’s standards committee plans to review Fairplay in areas such as training and apparatus, possibly as soon as this weekend.

The task force’s next meeting will be Monday at 7 p.m., also at Rockland Woods Elementary School.

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