Carroll delegation moves forward with CCVESA enabling legislation

Members of the Carroll County delegation unanimously approved moving forward with enabling legislation that would provide the county government the ability, if it chooses, to exercise authority over the county’s volunteer fire services for the first time.

The delegation approved the enabling legislation that came to them from the county with one amendment, which would require the establishment of an emergency service advisory council that can provide recommendations, something Tom Coe, chief of the New Windsor fire company and chairman of the Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Services Association work group that developed the language of the enabling legislation, said is already in progress.


Coe spoke Friday of the local emergency services companies’ challenge with bringing in servicemen and women.

“The ability to gain and retain volunteers has been a struggle,” Coe said.

This legislation came to the delegation after being approved by a majority — 12-2 — of Carroll’s 14 volunteer fire companies and by the Carroll Board of County Commissioners, 4-1. This could help provide staffing and resource efficiencies between fire companies and pave the way for a combination fire service, one that mixes paid career firefighters with volunteers to help support a service that is running low on new volunteers.

Coe previously said following the enabling legislation, an advisory council consisting of representatives from each of Carroll County’s 14 fire companies would work with the commissioners to determine what is needed to ensure the county’s fire service will continue to function well in the future. This could include a central authority that could coordinate emergency responses to countywide disasters, and it could also mean the mixing of paid and volunteer firefighters in a combination service.

But, Coe said, the first step is enabling the legislation. There’s been a lot of discussion, he added, but “we need this conversation to be taken seriously.”

Coe spoke of the struggles the fire companies have dealt with in recent years, most recently pointing to this week’s two major fires. On Tuesday, there was a two-story house fire in Mount Airy and, at the same time, there was a garage fire in New Windsor.

The combination of the two incidents required them to draw from mutual aid that was “too far away,” he added.

“That well overtaxed our system,” he said. “What we’re seeing is a decrease in the number of bodies that are on the apparatuses.”

Members of the delegation had a number of questions, and Del. Susan Krebs, R-District 5, tried to make a handful of amendments, though those did not go through. Del. Haven Shoemaker, R-District 5, made the amendment to create the advisory council, which passed.

Shoemaker asked if the enabling legislation was a short-term objective to go to all-paid fire companies, though Coe said that was “absolutely not” the goal. This can help sustain the volunteer fire service model longer, Coe added.

And, while the last vote had only 12 of the 14 fire companies in support, Coe said he thinks they’re “much closer” to having full support.

State Sen. Michael Hough-R-District 4, said they may never get everyone on the same page, but the fact they have 12 in favor means something.

“It’s very hard to get a unanimous position,” Hough added.