08/05/13 — Firefighters plan to eye study

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Firefighters plan to eye study

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 5, 2013 1:46 PM

The study that examined the operations of the county's volunteer fire departments provides a mixed bag of findings for the departments to consider, said Delbert Edwards, president of the Wayne County Firemen's Association.

Wayne County commissioners last month declined to accept the study and instead passed it off to the association.

"They can either use part of it, or not use any of it," Commissioner Ray Mayo said at the time. "Or they can put it on a shelf and let it stay 30 years. It is up to the Firemen's Association executive board in conjunction with county commissioners."

Conducted by Pennsylvania-based Volunteer Fire Insurance Services, the study offers ideas on policies and procedure, but also potentially controversial recommendations of merging the county's smaller volunteer fire departments with larger ones.

The association has yet to review the document, but Edwards said he plans to appoint a committee in the near future to do just that.

"We will, at some point in time, look at the survey and give the commissioners whatever feedback we are able to give them or try to accomplish whatever they task us with as far as the survey is concerned," he said.

Edwards said he has looked at the study and thinks that it has some positive aspects, but negative ones, too.

He declined to speak on specific issues.

"There are some things obviously in the survey that I don't agree with," he said. "Those are personal opinions. I think one of the purposes of the survey was to try to identify deficiencies, and no one wants to be told that they are deficient in anything. But the fact of the matter is that there are areas where anybody can improve regardless of who they are. But you don't want to necessarily be told that.

"There are some things that I do not agree with in the survey, but then again there are things in there that I think would be very useful to the fire service in Wayne County. All in all, I think the results of the survey are a good thing."

Edwards said he was speaking of examples of policies and operational guidelines in the study that he likes.

VFIS is a very reputable company and a leader in the fire services field, and the recommended policies are best management practices used nationwide, he said

"Implementing some of those policies and procedures would be very beneficial and help make sure the fire departments are covering themselves as far a liability goes and that sort of thing," he said. "Out of the survey that is what I think may be most beneficial."

Edwards said he did not want to comment on statements in the survey about individual fire departments.

Commissioners have sought to assure the fire departments that the county is not trying to take them over.

During the presentation before commissioners, Bill Jenaway, VFIS executive vice president for education and training, said it would cost the county more than $20 million annually to provide the same services now being provided by the volunteer departments.

"We are not suggesting that the county take over the fire departments," Jenaway said. "We are suggesting that the volunteer system has a long and viable future, but it needs support in a few ways, and it needs some modifications to make it stronger to be able to provide those future delivery of services."