Carroll County firefighters, fire chiefs and emergency services personnel will become part of one organization next month when the three groups are merged into the new Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Services Association Inc.
The merger was effectively approved yesterday when the state Senate passed House Bill 1184, formally changing the name of the Carroll County Volunteer Firemen's Association. It was the final legal hurdle firefighters needed to make the new association official. The new organization will officially begin operation at the firefighters' annual convention May 15 in Taneytown.
"We have to be a legal entity for the county to give us money," said Thomas J. Van de Bussche, president of the firemen's association. "Then it has to go through the signing procedure with the governor."
The firefighters are expected to receive about $7.5 million for operating expenses and to provide round-the-clock emergency medical services, beginning July 1.
The firefighters have been working on the changeover since May, when the reorganization was approved and a transition committee was established.
C. Douglas Bostian, transition committee chairman from Union Bridge Fire Company, told the firemen's association at Monday's meeting that details such as tax-exempt status, insurance, finances, a new logo and letterhead, new computer setups and other aspects of the changeover are nearing completion. Another committee meeting will be held next week to finalize the changes.
The firemen's association is an umbrella group handling administrative tasks for the firefighters, fire chiefs and emergency medical service personnel, all of whom are separately incorporated. The fire police are a separate organization under the fire chiefs group.
"You have three groups and they all meet different weeks, and it takes forever to get anything done," Earl Lookingbill, a delegate from Taneytown Volunteer Fire Company, said at last year's convention in May. "It takes six months before you can get all your stuff together to take to the commissioners." He said the change was necessary.
The reorganization will allow the companies to maintain individual voices. Instead of each company sending two delegates to the monthly meeting, each station will send its fire chief, ambulance captain, president and two at-large delegates.
The fire chiefs and EMS groups will continue to hold separate meetings to discuss business specific to them.
"It's something that should have been done a long time ago," said Bob Cumberland, president of Westminster Fire Engine and Hose Company No. 1, of the merger. "It will only improve our relationship with the county [commissioners] and with other county entities, and should make the fire and EMS service more efficient.
"It will hopefully improve communication among all 14 departments, too," Cumberland added. "Communication, as I see it, is the key to any organization's success."