FAIRPLAY —A task force studying the suspended Fairplay Fire Co. on Monday night started coming up with recommendations to help the company get back into service, including that the company develop a comprehensive plan that addresses staffing shortfalls in the department.
Other recommendations included having the department devise a plan for recruiting volunteers, insuring the department’s equipment always meets Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association standards and that there be increased relations between the county’s volunteer fire companies that could result in benefits like shared training sessions.
The recommendations were read by task force chairperson Paul Miller.
Task force member Tim Almany suggested some other recommendations, including that there be a contingency plan in case Fairplay Fire Co. is suspended again.
In that case, a rescue vehicle could be borrowed from another department and placed in the Fairplay coverage area, Almany said.
Then any qualified responders in the Fairplay area could use the vehicle to respond to calls in that area, Almany said.
Almany said hopefully the Fairplay Fire Co. will never get in this situation again.
“The citizens of Fairplay don’t deserve that,” Almany said.
Miller raised a concern of possible liability issues with a borrowed vehicle being used.
Task force members said those types of scenarios have been used before.
Task force member James Sprecher said the county’s fire department’s are all covered under the same insurance.
Almany also suggested that Fairplay be required to have response rates that are at or above the county average.
Sprecher said the only thing he is concerned about is the Washington County Board of Commissioners possibly passing that requirement as something that would be required of all departments.
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.
Some of the meetings have been tense as task force members and Fairplay Fire Co. representatives have discussed what information the department will give to the task force.
At the last task force meeting, fire department attorney Ed Kuczynski said the process has been a "bit of a witch hunt," and he said some of the requests of the department have been “legally out of bounds.”
At the beginning of Monday’s meeting at Rockland Woods Elementary School, Miller briefed task force members on what the Secretary of State’s office says about documents that non-profit organizations like the Fairplay Fire Co. must provide to the public on request.
One is an IRS form 990, which includes information about an organization’s total revenue and investments.
When asked about the 990 form, Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co. President Bill Pennington said he thought a financial statement that the department gives to the county would be sufficient.
Task force member Charlie Summers emphasized the 990 form can be requested by any citizen.
“I think we’re citizens,” Summers said.
Miller said at the end of the meeting that he would have the proposed recommendations put together and emailed to task force members before they meet again next Monday at the school.
Miller said he hopes to meet with the commissioners on Oct. 16 to give them a progress report on the task force’s work.