A recent discussion held between the Jefferson County Commission and members of the county's fire departments prompted a visit by Shepherdstown Fire Department Treasurer Dennis Barron. Barron appeared before the commission last Thursday to address a request by the commission that all fire departments in the county provide an annual audit as part of the requirement for receiving county funding.
The County Commission has consistently provided financial assistance to the fire departments. In the recent past, the oversight of that contribution has been placed in the hands of the Jefferson County Emergency Services Agency. That agency is now charged with allocating the funds; however, a renewed contract between the departments and the county has yet to be signed.
Jefferson County Fire and Rescue President Ron Fletcher addressed the commission two weeks ago with regard to an audit requirement. He told the governing body that each department alredy follows compliance guidelines to receive funding.
Barron backed up those statements Thursday when he explained in detail what forms are required by the State of West Virginia for a fire department to legally function. Barron said that all funds received by the department must be accounted for to the state including local contributions, donations, bingo and raffle funds as well as any other fundraising monies collected.
Barron went on to say that he would agree that an audit of the county's contribution of $61,000 per company could be in order.
"My position is we are willing to give an audit of the $61,000 and any impact fee money. Money from something like our carnival that's membership and we deal with that," he said. Barron went on to say that all records for the companies including all financial statements can be found on the Secretary of State's website.
Independent Fire Company treasurer Doug Picard echoed the fact that the records of all companies can be found there.
Fletcher, who also appeared during Thursday's meeting, informed commissioners that members of the Fire and Rescue Association had met with members of the JCESA and the two agencies agree that they wish to see the commission funds distributed as they were last year, with an equal share going to each department.
Commissioners hesitantly agreed to the equal distribution; however, Walt Pellish had strong reservations. "I am willing to live with this one more year, but I won't support equal distribution one more year."
Commissioners discussed the fact that the needs of departments differ around the county and some departments may need more funding than others.
Lyn Widmyer summed it up saying, "All fire departments are not created equal."
Fletcher assured the group that the Fire and Rescue Association and the JCESA will work together to reach an agreement on a formula for distribution dependent upon varying factors including call volume, equipment needs and manpower.