Advertisement

Washington County will no longer recognize Fairplay Fire Co.

January 29, 2013|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com
  • Fairplay Fire Company Task Force member Charlie Summers, left, Deputy Director Department of Emergency Services of Washington County, and Task Force Chairman Paul Miller, right, speak Tuesday afternoon during the task force's report to the Washington County Board of Commissioners.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

In a move that a Fairplay Fire Co. representative said was “appalling,” the Washington County Board of Commissioners decided Tuesday afternoon to no longer recognize the embattled fire company and no longer provide it with any funding or in-kind services.

The action means Fairplay Fire Co. — which drew the attention of the county after having trouble responding to calls — will no longer be dispatched on any calls and the Fairplay community will instead be served by the fire departments from Williamsport, Sharpsburg, Funkstown and Boonsboro.

“This is the only thing we could do,” Commissioner William B. McKinley said after the vote.

Acting on a motion from McKinley to take the action, the commissioners made the vote before a standing-room-only crowd that included Fairplay Fire Co. supporters, members of the task force and other emergency service officials.

The commissioners voted to take the action on a 4-1 vote, with McKinley, John F. Barr, Jeff Cline and Ruth Anne Callaham voting yes and Commission President Terry L. Baker voting no.

Advertisement

The commissioners voted to take the action after Paul Miller, chairman of a task force charged with looking into issues at Fairplay Fire Co., outlined the task force’s final report and recommendations.

Before the commissioners took their vote, Callaham said she believed it was important to give Fairplay Fire Co. representatives a chance to come before the commission in the future to address issues facing the department if the department wants to continue working on its problems.

McKinley said he was open to that “under certain conditions.”

And it would be best to do it “sooner than later” added Barr.

Cline said he wanted the commissioners to talk next week about making sure there is adequate emergency medical services for the Fairplay area.

The commissioners voted in July to suspend Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co. indefinitely for not responding quickly to enough to all of its calls. Officials said the fire department had a “failed response” — it either didn’t respond within 10 minutes or didn’t respond at all — for 26.3 percent of its calls from Jan. 1 to May 31, 2012.

The commissioners also agreed in July to withhold payments to Fairplay. County Administrator Gregory B. Murray said previously the county provides $48,000 per year and pays for utility costs.

The task force was asked to come up with possible solutions for getting the department running again, efficiently.

Miller on Tuesday talked about the task force’s conclusion that Fairplay’s current management needed to be replaced and that the department be put on 24 month probation if a suspension from the commissioners was lifted. Miller also talked about issues it discovered about the department, like operational problems with firefighter air tanks that could put the safety of fire fighters at risk.

Miller said the task force came up with 31 recommendations to get Fairplay back in service. Miller said task force members were adamant that they believed there was more than one issue that led to Fairplay’s problems.

“Everything has to work together for this department, or any department, to be successful,” Miller said.

Leonard Heller, chief of Fairplay Fire Co., declined to comment after the commissioners’ vote.

Local attorney Ed Kuczynski, who has represented the fire company at some task force meetings, said the commissioners’ action “shows utter disregard” for due process for the fire department. Kuczynski has said in the past that the task force’s call for new administration at Fairplay Fire Co. was inappropriate and that the company’s problems are similar to ones experienced by other departments.

Kuczynski said after Tuesday’s vote that he has tried to talk the county about Fairplay but was turned away. “I think it’s absolutely appalling,” Kuczynski said of the vote.

Among the people at Tuesday’s meeting was several former members of Fairplay Fire Co. The members expressed frustration over what had occurred at the department, including the fact that Mark Kopp was removed from the Fairplay Fire Co. in 2008 even though he had obtained about $400,000 in grant money for the fire department.

Kopp, who was a lieutenant at the department when he was removed, said it is sad to see what has happened to the department and it is important the Fairplay community have a fire department.

“We just can’t do it under the current leadership,” said Kopp, who is now a member of the Williamsport Volunteer Fire Co.

How they voted

The vote on the motion that the county will no longer recognize the Fairplay Fire Co. and no longer fund the department or provide it with in-kind services.

William B. McKinley Yes
John F Barr  Yes
Jeff Cline  Yes
Ruth Anne Callaham Yes
Terry L. Baker No

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|