A citizens’ panel in Caroline County has been working to improve fire and rescue services, but it’s still unclear how much that will cost.
The county’s emergency services commission recently presented the Board of Supervisors with a 13-item list on how to strengthen and expand paid and volunteer rescue efforts.
Supervisors had no qualms with the ideas, which include hiring new administrative personnel and coordinating paid and volunteer rescue efforts under one chief.
State fire and rescue agencies developed the study last year. The citizens’ commission is charged with figuring out specific costs and procedures for implementing the suggestions.
Bill Wick, chairman of the commission, said yesterday that estimating costs is a challenge.
New positions listed in the report include a volunteer recruiter, fire marshal and training coordinator. Other items lacking estimates include fully funding volunteer services, installing new fire hydrants and purchasing equipment for paid and volunteer staff.
Fire marshal? Weren’t we supposed to get one years ago?
The report also includes low- or no-cost ideas. For example, it suggests combining the fire and EMS departments under one chief and enforcing address markings to help rescue personnel identify county homes.
Why haven’t we been enforcing that for years?
Earlier this year, officials tossed around the idea of paying volunteers. That idea has since been scratched.
Of course it has; after all, canneries, summer employment programs, a $3,700,000 county administration building (for twenty full-time personnel), a $3,200,000 community recreation center, a $1,100,000 visitor center, and trips to Hawaii are more important.
“There are such things the county might be able to give them: a county sticker for vehicles or provide more sophisticated equipment,” Wick said. “There are a lot of things we could provide, making their life better, without giving them money. We’re looking at ways that we can reward folks for being a part of the team.”
Ed Fuzy, the county’s director of fire and rescue services, said 24 full-time emergency workers support 230 to 250 volunteers. He’s working to fill five of the full-time positions.
Earlier this year, the commission urged support for a high-school training program. The latest report recommends changes in that program to help generate volunteers and career emergency personnel.
“Any program that’s been in place for a while can be tweaked and made better,” Wick said.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Caroline’s estimated population in 2006 was 26,731–an almost 21 percent increase since 2000. The number of housing units in the county rose 17 percent between 2000 and 2005.
Fuzy and Wick said that growth spurred the study. All the suggestions aim to coordinate and strengthen emergency services.
Wick said many of the new residents expect a fully paid emergency staff.
With demands such as full-time jobs and child care, dedicating time to volunteering can be hard. But Wick says the county wants to maintain that volunteer base.
Fuzy and County Administrator Percy Ashcraft expect the county to fully fund recommendations over the next three years.