By DAVE McMILLION
10:20 PM EDT, October 16, 2012
Twists and turns in the continuing story about the suspended Fairplay Fire Co. continued Tuesday night when a standing-room-only crowd turned out at Keedysville Town Hall to hear about the issue.
Paul Miller, chairman of a task force studying what to do about Fairplay Fire Co., gave the Washington County Board of Commissioners an update on weeks of work the task force has put in on the issue.
Various people in the audience of about 40 people commented about the situation, including attorney Ed Kuczynski, who has been speaking on behalf of the fire company.
The task force during its regular meeting Monday night agreed that the fire company’s leadership, including all administration and fire suppression officers, needs to be replaced.
Kuczynski said the suggested action was “totally inappropriate. I think if you look at other fire companies in this county, they’re going to have the same problems. They just do better with their (response) rates,” Kuczynski said.
Kuczynski said fire company members have tried to cooperate with the task force but they feel the process is being “shoved down their throats.”
Dale Hill, president of the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association, said the work of the task force is “well intentioned,” but he had concerns about some of the task force’s recommendations, including that the fire company’s leadership be replaced.
He called the request “clearly out of bounds.”
“As you can see, there are a lot of emotions,” Miller told the commissioners.
Commissioners President Terry L. Baker said he is concerned about cold weather approaching and not having the fire department in operation. Baker said many people in the Fairplay area rely on wood burning for heat and it is important to have the fire company in operation to keep people safe in case of fires.
Baker said he was looking for a motion from either Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham or William B. McKinley that Fairplay Fire Co. be put back in service while the commission waits on recommendations from the task force about how to help the fire company.
Callaham or McKinley did not offer a motion.
Commissioners John F. Barr and Jeff Cline were not at the meeting.
The Washington County Board of Commissioners voted in July to suspend Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co. indefinitely for not responding quickly to enough to all of its calls.
The task force was given three months to come up with possible solutions for getting the department running again, efficiently.
Task force members agreed Monday that they will not meet any more until they get a final report from an inspection of the fire department that was conducted by the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association’s standards committee.
Miller said Tuesday night that perhaps the task force’s work can be completed by the end of November.
One of the issues that was discussed Tuesday night was the releasing of names of members of the Fairplay Fire Co. Miller said the task force has asked for the names but has not received any due to various legal issues.
Callaham said she would think that if there was a fire department that sincerely wanted to make progress in such a situation that it would provide a membership list.
Callaham expressed frustration at how the situation has unfolded, including that an attorney was brought into the process.
“I’m surprised we’re at this point,” Callaham said.
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