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Commissioners would support Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co. under new leadership

February 05, 2013|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com

The embattled Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co. was one of the main talking points Tuesday during the annual State of the County report.

The issue came up when the Board of Commissioners for Washington County fielded questions from local business people who attended the event at Fountain Head Country Club in Hagerstown.

Commissioner William McKinley said fire companies from Boonsboro, Funkstown, Sharpsburg and Williamsport would continue to serve the Fairplay community until an alternative is reached. In the meantime, he said, those companies will receive the funding that originally was budgeted for Fairplay.

“In case you don’t know, the performance of the four fire companies ... has been impeccable since July when we suspended Fairplay and they have taken over,” McKinley said. “The failure rate of the four fire companies that have taken over is less than 1 percent.”

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McKinley and the other commissioners, however, said they believed Fairplay should have its own fire company.

Washington County Commissioners President Terry Baker said he was the only commissioner who voted against suspending the Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co.

He said he didn’t believe the commissioners should have the authority to shut down volunteer fire organizations.

“I know we shut the fire department down, but I think it was more about shutting down the leadership,” he said.

Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham said she agreed with Baker and urged the people who attended the event to support their local fire companies.

She mentioned a Monday fire that gutted the building that was home to the former Wolfe’s on the Square in downtown Williamsport.

“The next fire could be your business, so get friendly with the fire or rescue company that serves your business,” she said. “Find out who they are. Go out and shake their hand. Give them a hug. More importantly, write them a check.”

Commissioner Jeff Cline said that although volunteer firefighters save governments millions of dollars, he supported the action that the commissioners took against the Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co.

“There has to be accountability for tax dollars, especially at the leadership level,” he said.

Cline, McKinley and Commissioner John Barr said they would support a fire company in Fairplay with different leadership.

“Personally, if I were to see a change of leadership, if there would be a resignation in that fire company, I would be the first to rescind the motion I made last week and bring forth a new motion to have an election at the Fairplay Fire Co. to establish new leadership and put that fire company back in place the way it has been for years,” McKinley said.

The event, which was sponsored by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, was attended by about 200 people.

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