WESTMINSTER — County volunteer fire companies may have more than one consolidationplan to consider at their annual convention in May.
The fire companies were to vote at their convention on a single proposal to consolidate the authority of the governing structures for fire and emergency services. When the county's 14 fire companies voted on the proposalin October, it was narrowly approved, 8-6.
At last night's meeting of the Emergency Services Planning Board,members expressed some concern that the proposal will not be approved at the convention, because two-thirds of the companies must approvechanges in the association's charter.
In order to increase the chances of the approval, members of the board decided to allow companies to introduce amendments at the convention that would call for consolidation, but that may differ from the study's recommendation.
Theoriginal proposal was one of 24 recommendations for improving countyemergency services to come out of a study by the Institute for Governmental Service at the University of Maryland.
The study was commissioned by the county to help the Emergency Services Planning Board come up with a new master plan for fire and emergency services.
Themost hotly debated recommendation in the study -- which was releasedin July -- was the merger of Carroll County Volunteer Firemen's Association Executive Committee, the Fire Chiefs Association and the Ambulance Association.
Some fire company members have challenged the study's proposal, saying the appointment of fire chiefs and emergency medical services captains to the executive committee would not cut down on current communications and management problems.
The 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 companies supported the study's recommendation; some said they would supportit 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.
If the merger is approved, it could then be incorporated into the county master plan.
The study's recommendations will be used by the county Planning and Zoning Board to answerfirefighters' complaints that they are overburdened by the county's growth.
Another recommendation narrowly approved by the companies in October is a proposal to change the rank structure of Emergency Medical Services divisions. Under the new rule, EMS captains could haveequal status with fire chiefs.
Seven of the companies approved the proposal, six opposed it and one did not vote.
Overall, the study found that the 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.