Board delays voting on plan

Commissioners have questions on outline of emergency services

June 04, 1999|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

A vote to approve the Emergency Services Master Plan presented yesterday to the Carroll County Board of Commissioners was put off at least until next week, allowing time to clarify key issues such as adopting a countywide sprinkler ordinance.

Approval for the plan, which had not been revised since 1981, was recommended to the commissioners by the county planning commission, which reviewed the plan's 51-page final draft on May 18.

Commissioners Julia Walsh Gouge, Donald I. Dell and Robin Bartlett Frazier reacted favorably to the presentation by Oscar Baker, chairman of the plan's update committee, and Robert P. Cumberland Jr., president of the Carroll County Volunteer Firemen's Association, but Gouge said she wanted additional information before voting.

The commissioners asked if a sprinkler code would apply to older homes or just to those to be constructed.

Baker and Scott Campbell, assistant administrator and fire protection engineer in the county's Office of Public Safety, said any data requested could be provided.

Gouge asked about the cost to the county if the payout age for the volunteer firefighters' Length of Service Awards Program were lowered from 60 to 55, as the plan recommends, to aid in recruitment and retention of volunteers.

The program pays $100 a month for life to active association members age 60 and older who have 25 years of continuing service and earn a required number of service points for attending meetings and training, responding to fire calls or fund-raising.

Baker and Cumberland said this financial incentive is crucial to helping the 14 volunteer companies in Carroll County attract and retain firefighters and emergency services personnel.

Baker said the master plan committee considered lowering the age for payout to 55, but at a reduced rate, similar to the way Social Security is paid.

The county spends $3.2 million a year for fire and emergency services, providing 90 percent of the operating budget for each of 14 companies.

The Emergency Services Master Plan also calls for formation of a fire prevention bureau, a fire protection code modeled after the state's fire code and the appointment of a committee to review and update the plan at least every three years.

The plan recommends moving the emergency operations dispatch center from the County Government Building back to the Fire Training Center complex on Old Washington Road in Westminster.

Dell said it was his understanding that the firemen's association wanted the dispatch center moved so more space would be available for training, but Cumberland said that was not accurate.

"We were not asked for input," he said. "It was just moved."

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