WESTMINSTER — County volunteer fire and emergency medical units have narrowly approved a plan to consolidate their authority, but the plan will not go into effect until May at the earliest.
The county Emergency Services Planning Board met last night to discuss the proposal along with 24 additional recommendations of a study by the Institute for Governmental Service at the University of Maryland.
The study was commissioned by the county to help the board come up with a new master plan for fire and emergency services.
The mosthotly debated recommendation in the study -- which was released in July 1990 -- was the merger of the governing structures for fire and emergency services.
Under the recommendation, the CarrollCounty Volunteer Firemen's Association's Executive Committee, the Fire Chief's Association and the Ambulance Association would be merged into a new executive committee.
Some firefighters challenged the proposal, saying the appointment of fire chiefs and EMS captains to the executivecommittee would not cut down on communications and management problems.
The current executive committee, which manages the emergency services system and distributes county money to departments, is made up of two delegates from each of the Carroll companies.
Because it is not made up of those in decision-making positions -- company presidents or chiefs -- the committee does not run efficiently, the study said.
In January, the county's 14 volunteer fire companies submitted their opinions on the study and the proposed merger.
At that time, only six of the companiessupported the study's recommendation; some said they would support it with changes and others voted against it.
Since then, some of the companies did some rethinking on the proposal, said Scott Campbell, assistant administrator of emergency services at the county's Emergency Operations Center.
At a meeting ofthe fire companies and the emergency medical units last Wednesday, eight of the companies voted to support the recommendation, while six did not approve it.
Campbell said the next step is for the volunteer fire companies to approve the merger and vote to change their bylaws at the Firemen's Association convention next May.
There is someconcern that the proposal will not be approved at the convention, because two-thirds of the companies must approve changes in the association's charter.
If the merger is approved, it could then beincorporated into the county master plan.
The recommendations also will be used by the county Planning and Zoning Board to answer firefighters' complaints that they are overburdened by the county's growth.
Another recommendation narrowly approved by the companies last week is the proposal to change the rank structure of Emergency Medical Services divisions. Under the new rule, EMS captains could have equal status with fire chiefs.
Seven of the companies approved the proposal, six opposed it and one did not vote.
Overall, the study found thatthe volunteer fire and EMS units are struggling to meet demand and suffer from severe management problems but still provide timely and efficient response to emergencies.
The study suggested several additional ways for the county to improve its volunteer emergency servicesbut did not suggest a move to a paid system.