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Fairplay group to be commended for its efforts

June 03, 2013

In a county not always known for bold, speedy moves, one group is deviating from the norm. Men and women seeking to re-establish fire and rescue service to the Fairplay area are moving ahead with paperwork and fundraising that they hope will allow them to take legal control of the old department, which was decommissioned for unacceptable response times.

Failing that, the group plans to start a new station from scratch.

We applaud this group for taking control of a bad situation and making every effort to right the ship. We also thank the Washington County Commissioners for showing their support as well.

Commissioner Terry Baker initially had understandable reservations about interfering in a private fire company, but as Commissioner Jeff Cline noted, it was the leaders of the old Fairplay department themselves who effectively carved their own tombstone.

Baker now says that he will support the new group’s efforts, putting all five commissioners on the same page.

At this point, it is probably too much to hope that the disenfranchised Fairplay officers will do the right thing and voluntarily turn the assets of the company over to the new blood — even though tax money, voluntary contributions and participation in department fundraisers have paid for the buildings and trucks.

The community has financially supported Co. 12 in good faith, a trust breached by the old guard and its refusal to comply with task force recommendations that could have rectified the situation.

The building and equipment might rightfully belong to the current membership, by the letter of the law if not in the spirit. That said, our local state lawmakers should be put on notice that a situation similar to this cannot happen again. The law that allows private companies and private individuals to control property that’s been paid for by the community must be changed.

Fire companies that perform well, and the overwhelming majority do, should by all means be allowed to call their own shots. But when trouble arises at departments that are for all intents and purposes public trusts, counties should have the authority to step in and set things straight.

Until that day comes, however, we recognize the “new” Fairplay department as the one that can effectively lead the community out of a long and unpleasant circumstance.

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