By DAVE McMILLION
10:50 PM EST, January 7, 2013
A task force that is finalizing recommendations about the suspended Fairplay Fire Co. continued Monday night to support a change in the fire department’s administration.
Charlie Summers, a member of the task force, said he was presented Monday with applications from 78 people who said they would like to be members of the fire company, but only if there is a change in its administration.
“To me, this is one of the most impressive exhibits we have had since we started this process,” task force member Tim Almany said of the applications. “I think it’s excellent.”
The task force talked in October about a change in leadership in the Fairplay Fire Co. and calling for an officers’ election.
As he did in October, task force member James Sprecher said he was not in favor of asking for an administration change at the fire department, while task force member Allen James said he supports one.
“Sometimes you have to make decisions that are best in the big picture,” James said.
Other task force members said they supported an administrative change.
Fairplay Fire Co. President Bill Pennington and Fire Chief Leonard Heller did not comment on the issue.
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. 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 task force was asked to come up with possible solutions for getting the department running again, efficiently. Although the task force has passed its deadline of three months, task force Chairman Paul Miller said Monday that the group should only have to meet one or two more times.
Other recommendations the task force continued to work on Monday include:
• Requiring Fairplay Fire Co. to conduct an audit of its operations. Pennington said he was “miffed” over the recommendation and said the fire department is audited every year by the same accountant the county government uses. Miller questioned whether the audit that has been conducted at the department was a “spot check.”
Pennington said “every check we write and every bill we have” is examined in the process.
• That the fire department be under a 24-month probationary period if it is reinstated. During that period, the department will be inspected five times. Those inspections will be like the detailed reviews that the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association just completed of the Fairplay department.
It came up during the meeting that Fairplay Fire Co. has been distributing a survey to Fairplay-area residents asking their opinion about the department.
Some task force members said they had not received the survey, nor had their friends and family members. Task force members asked Pennington why the survey was sent out and he said he could not imagine why the task force cared about it.
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