As Carroll county moves closer to the opening of its Department of Fire and Emergency Services, some members of the Board of County Commissioners expressed concern during the most recent open session over whether the department would be able to meet necessary benchmarks in time.
Bob McCoy, the department’s director, updated the commissioners during Thursday’s board meeting on the department’s progress toward opening.
In October, the commissioners voted unanimously to create the county’s first combination fire and emergency medical services department. The new fire service will bring together Carroll’s 14 community fire companies in the same department and has set a goal of opening by July and hiring 200 personnel over the course of three to five years, per McCoy.
Request for county intervention originally came from the Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Service Association (CCVESA) to assist with service demands and the financial burden of the various community fire companies. Per McCoy, the ultimate goal of the new department will be to transfer the employment burden from the current fire services to the county and to provide efficient services for public safety to all citizens and visitors to the county.
As McCoy presented the department’s financial and structural progress, Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, voiced concern about that time frame.
“We’ve got some serious discussions to have because internally we are not ready,” said Wantz, who also pointed out that discussions about internal positions have not yet begun.
“We may have to move some people around and do different things in different departments to make this work because I quite frankly don’t know where we’re going to find the money to hire all these people,” Wantz said.
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Commissioner Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, said benchmark decisions should be made as objectives are met and should not be looked at as time driven.
McCoy said one of the biggest concerns expressed by current volunteers is the question of continued funding during the transition, to which McCoy suggested that all operation costs should continue to be the responsibility of the county department.
McCoy said the department wants to ensure the volunteer budget process will remain the same. Changes to the way the department operates will eliminate the requirement for volunteers to have to raise funds for the purchase of ambulances or large capital items that need to be replaced. The new process will also establish a distribution schedule and transfer all the liability for ambulances to the county and away from volunteer companies. This will also transfer all costs associated with fuel, maintenance, and insurance.
McCoy said the Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Service Association (CCVESA) will continue to play a role in the new fire department. In the past, CCVESA filled a management position for the volunteer fire service, but going forward the association will transition from a managerial role to an advocacy role for volunteers.
CCVESA will also be involved in determining the volunteer budget for the new fire department. McCoy said each station will submit a budget request to CCVESA which will then submit a draft to McCoy, his staff, and a financial analyst to be incorporated into the overall fire EMS department.
Another concern expressed to McCoy was the role of employees who wished to continue to volunteer. He said he had numerous discussion with human resources and believes employees can continue to volunteer.
“We can address this issue through policy development, which will allow our career employees to volunteer in the county on days off and still secure the county’s interests,” McCoy said.