Fire department spending, training hot topic at BOCC meeting

Published: Thursday, May 23, 2013 at 05:46 PM.

CHIPLEY — Tempers flared as the Washington County Board of Commissioners discussed the county fire department’s spending during Thursday’s BOCC meeting in Chipley.

Resident Nan Thompson came before the board with questions about fire department expenditures that she had discovered through a search of public records.

“I’ve discovered some discrepancies with the Washington County Fire Department in Sunny Hills,” Thompson said, “and they concern me. I feel like this is important to me as a taxpayer.”

Thompson said the Sunny Hills Fire Department operated as a 501(c)3 non-profit from 2009 to 2010, even as the department remained under the administration of the Washington County government. “For a couple of years, according to the minutes, the fire department was operating as both a 501(c)3  and as a county department,” she said.

In 2010, the fire department also purchased $910 worth of personalized jackets for department members which were distributed as Christmas presents, Thompson said. “I can understand spending tax money on equipment that stays with the department, but if you give someone a gift, then it no longer belongs to the county.” She added that personalizing clothing would make it unlikely to be reused by other department members. “Someone else is not going to want to wear a T-shirt with my name on it,” Thompson said.

She also said that the department had given out $587 worth of flashlights as gifts to department members. “I have no problem with purchasing flashlights for use by the department, but giving them away?” Thompson said she thought the county should seek reimbursement for the expenditures.

Thompson also told the board that records showed volunteers had been paid by the fire department for volunteering their time. “If you are getting paid, are you really a volunteer?” Thompson asked.

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