CHIPELY - The Washington County Board of County Commissioners has changed its mind about handing the reins of the county's fire departments to Sheriff Bobby Haddock.
The decision to ask Sheriff Haddock to take over Washington County's 11 departments was made earlier this year, with County Attorney Jeff Goodman facilitating the move.
Commissioner Todd Abbott said while he didn't doubt Sheriff Haddock's ability to run the department, he wasn't comfortable with the board of commissioners not having a say in the daily operations considering the county is ultimately responsible for providing fire protection.
"State mandate says that we are responsible for providing fire protection," and we have no jurisdiction or say over what the sheriff does," said Abbott. "If I'm going to be responsible for it, I want some say over it."
Commissioner Lynn Gothard reiterated her previous concerns about the current operations of the fire departments, stating that hiring a County Fire Coordinator would assist local chiefs is ensuring their departments are up to code.
"The fire departments have come before this board every year to discuss what needs to be done, and nothing has been done," said Gothard. "The fire departments deserve the same leadership as every other county department. The coordinator could process orders and track training and equipment standards."
The board agreed to rescind the previous vote to hand fire operations to the sheriff and hire look into hiring a coordinator.
Salary will be configured using the county pay scale, with the first year funded out of the $64,000 balance currently sitting untouched in the county's "fire services" account. The board stressed the salary will not be $64,000, rather just funded out of that account the first year and possibly by a grant for the following year.
In other action, the board also approved its consent agenda, which included placing the Washington County Board of Education's half-cent sales tax on the November ballot as a referendum.