Firefighters Sharply Divided On Restructuring Proposals

January 23, 1991|By Maria Archangelo | Maria Archangelo,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — Members of the Emergency Services Planning Board hoped for a landslide Tuesday night. What they got was more of a trickle.

The group, which is trying to develop a master plan for county emergency services, spent last night reading through the comments of the 14 volunteer fire companies on the recommendations of a study by the Institute forGovernmental Service at the University of Maryland.

The members of the board said they hoped the companies' opinion would form a majority on some of the report's key suggestions. But instead, the fire companies were sharply divided.

"We were hoping fora landslide one way or another," said Scott Campbell, assistant administrator of emergency services at the Emergency Operations Center.

The most hotly debated recommendation in the report was that the governing structure of fire and emergency medical services be merged toconsolidate authority.

Under the recommendation, the Carroll County Volunteer Firemen's Association's Executive Committee, the Fire Chiefs' Association and the Ambulance Association would be merged into a new executive committee.

Six of the 14 volunteer companies said they agree with the recommendation, three said they would agree to itwith some changes, and five refused to agree.

Many company members agreed with the plan, while others in the same company disagreed vehemently.

"It will be too cumbersome to handle the problems with more meetings," wrote the Manchester Volunteer Fire Company, adding that it is unfair to burden volunteers with having to attend more meetings.

New Windsor Volunteer Fire Company members agreed, writing that the system has been "functioning fine for years."

But Lineboro fire company members said they "strongly agreed" with the proposal, and Winfield members wrote that "consolidation is mandatory."

Richard Dell, president of the County Volunteer Firemen's Association, hassaid he is not convinced that a recommendation to appoint fire chiefs and EMS captains to the association's executive board would cut down on communication and management problems.

The executive committee, which manages the emergency services system and distributes money to the departments, is made up of two delegates from each of the Carroll companies.

Because it is not made up of people in decision-making positions -- company presidents or chiefs -- the committee does not function efficiently, the study found.

"No matter who is on thecommittee, it will still have to go back to the company for a vote,"Dell said.

On another major recommendation -- that the county hire a qualified coordinator to handle administration of emergency services -- the companies were similarly split.

Five companies agreed with the proposal, four agreed with amendments, four disagreed with the recommendation and one company could not make a decision.

The board plans to use the report's recommendations and opinions from the county's fire companies to help formulate a master plan for emergency services.

The county Planning and Zoning Board also is expected touse the report to respond to firefighters' complaints that they are overburdened by the county's growth.

The report, released in July by the Emergency Operations Center, suggested several ways for the county to improve its volunteer emergency system.

It didn't, however, suggest a move to a paid emergency-service system. The report instead recommends that the county develop an aggressive plan to recruit new fire and emergency medical service volunteers.

Overall, the study found that the volunteer fire and EMS units are struggling to meetdemand for services and suffer from severe management problems, but they still provide timely and efficient response to emergencies.

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