Despite the Washington County Commissioners’ 4-1 vote Jan. 29 to no longer recognize the Fairplay fire company, and to no longer provide it funding or in-kind services, the fire company has members who continue to work to raise funds and who still are receiving training for emergency services.
“We think we should be reinstated,” President Bill Pennington said Wednesday night. A group of 25 fire company members sat around tables in the fire company’s social hall that night while Pennington and Fire Chief Leonard Heller answered questions from The Herald-Mail concerning the fire company’s decertification by the county and its plans for the future.
The fire company members are volunteers who work hard to support the fire company, Pennington said.
“I want to serve my community and they’ve taken that away from me. We worked hard to train and be certified,” said Donna Heller, an emergency medical technician and the fire chief’s wife.
Ed Kuczynski, the fire company’s attorney, said in a phone interview Wednesday that Fairplay fire officials are “open to discussion as to how to ... tweak” the comprehensive plan the fire company submitted to the county task force or to expand certain areas the task force believes need to be more detailed or addressed further.
“Obviously, we’re trying to open up a dialogue with the county commissioners at this point to discuss under which conditions or how it is firefighting privileges (could) be reinstated,” Kuczynski said.
Fire company members said Wednesday night the commissioners, as a group, have not come down to Fairplay to talk to them, despite repeated requests.
“We want to see if there’s a way to resolve this,” Pennington said.
Lost gaming license
The commissioners’ decision to no longer recognize the fire company cost it its county gaming license, said David Grabill, the fire company’s treasurer.
On Feb. 1, Fairplay voluntarily turned over its gaming license to the county, according to Assistant County Administrator Sarah Lankford Sprecher.
The gaming license permitted the fire company to sell tip jars.
Grabill said he was contacted the week of the commissioners’ vote by James Hovis, the county’s director of community grant management, regarding Fairplay’s gaming license.
Grabill said Hovis told him that if he voluntarily turned in Fairplay’s gaming license, Hovis would hold the gaming license for Fairplay until the matter with the fire company was settled and then return the license to the fire company.
Sprecher was contacted with a request for a comment on the matter from Hovis. Instead of Hovis contacting The Herald-Mail directly, Sprecher confirmed via email that was true.
Grabill said Hovis told him that if he refused to turn in the license and Hovis had to fill out the proper paperwork, Fairplay’s gaming license would be revoked.
Via email, Sprecher stated that was an inaccurate statement.
Pennington said three bonanzas to be held at the fire company’s social hall recently were canceled because the fire company wouldn’t have tip jars available. The bonanzas were events to raise money for other organizations, while the bookings for the social hall and the tip-jar proceeds would have benefited the fire company, he said.