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Worthville Fire Dept. goes back into service

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By Dave Taylor

The News-Democrat

Worthville Volunteer Fire Department is again answering calls after about two weeks of being out of service to allow members to complete required training.

Worthville Fire Chief Roy Breeden said he put the department back in service after completion of more than more than 200 hours of state training by department personnel,

The department has been in the process of reorganization in the wake of the resignation of former Fire Chief Pat McGlennon.

“There has been a change in leadership there in the past two or three weeks. They are trying to regroup,” according to Carroll County Judge-Executive Harold “Shorty” Tomlinson. Jerry Biddle had agreed to take over as fire chief but “has since rethought his situation,” he noted.

“I just this morning received my card from the state fire commissioner that I am officially the new fire chief,” Breeden said Friday. He had served as acting chief for the past few weeks. He said a number of volunteers had left the department in recent months.

“Right now we have 18 firefighters on the department,” he said. “The majority of these have served on the department in the past and have recently come back. There has been more turnout of people wanting to serve than I have seen in years, and I’ve been a member of this fire department for seven years.”

Until he could determine the status of personnel and equipment, Breeden said he “called county dispatch and had them to take us out of service until we could get more training. For insurance purposes and the safety of our personnel, I felt it was best to temporarily put it out of service until we could perform our duties safely. We’re having a CPR certification training tonight,” he said on Friday. “We’ll be training all day Saturday and all day Sunday, and some of them will be training again on Monday. We will be back in service by the end of closing time on Monday.”

Both Tomlinson and Ed Webb, Carroll County Emergency Operations Services director, said while the Worthville department was out of service the community continued to have fire protection from the other departments in the county due to mutual assistance agreements between departments.

“They do have mutual aid agreements with the other fire departments in the county,” Webb said. “These mutual aid agreements are common in fire services and in emergency medical services as well. If one cannot handle a situation or if they need additional resources they can call in another department for help. The five fire companies in Carroll County all work real well together.”

The purpose of a mutual assistance agreement between departments is to provide mutual assistance to the parties for control of fires, fire prevention, emergency medical services, hazardous materials control, and/or other emergency support in the event of a major fire disaster or other emergency.

“I believe they still have enough certified personnel there to respond” with equipment if a fire should occur, Tomlinson said of the Worthville volunteers, “and they are in the process of getting the proper training for others in order to get them certified. There are enough people out there to step up and help. The chiefs of the other departments are helping them get the training they need” and giving input to help.

Webb agreed that the volunteers at Worthville are “working very hard to get where they need to be.”

Breeden praised the work of the volunteer firefighters in the past few days. “That just goes to show the determination of these volunteers and this community to keep this fire department going,” he said.

Department audit

“There’s an audit being done” of the department’s financial records, Breeden said. “Shorty and the fiscal court are looking into the books and the results of that will be coming out in the wash in the next month.”

Biddle, who briefly succeeded McGlennon as chief, said “the day I walked into the job I found $12,000 worth of bills that were due immediately and there was only $42 in the bank account. What happened prior to my coming on the job I have no knowledge of.”

Tomlinson verified that Carroll County Fiscal Court is looking into the Worthville department’s financial records. Fiscal court “had budgeted money for each of the departments in the county and we had asked them for an audit so that we had some accountability of how the money was being spent. Some of the departments in the county had given us a detailed financial report. Worthville was one of those that did not. There is a public accountant looking at that situation now.”

According to the judge-executive, Carroll County Fiscal Court has already advanced two allocations totaling $10,000 to the department in recent weeks to cover expenses “so they can stay in operation.”

The total is one-third of what the county had budgeted for the department for 2009, funds that normally are not allocated to the county’s fire companies until late in the year.

The county had released “$2,500 to help them buy fuel so they had fuel to get to a fire if there was one. There was also an allocation of $7,500 to help them keep their insurance intact for the building and for their vehicles,” Tomlinson said. The judge said these allocations will be deducted from the $30,000 budgeted for Worthville this year. Normally, fiscal court distributes the budgeted allocation to each department “in November or December. They usually make a request and when the property tax money starts coming in, that’s when we normally make those allocations.”

Tomlinson said county government “is going to keep on top of the financial situation there because we can’t let it get like this again. I’m a member of a fire department, too, so I understand how important volunteer fire departments are to these rural communities.”

Breeden remains upbeat about the future of the department. “The entire community has responded to help us keep the fire doors open,” he said. “Myself and the other firefighters here want to stress that this is not our fire house, it’s the community’s fire house, so we’re going to get the community back involved in it. Our local ladies auxiliary is getting back together next week. We’re working with a local church to co-sponsor a junior explorers group for the youth in the community. It’s looking good!”

According to Breeden, a community-wide cleanup is set for Saturday, May 9 in Worthville. “They usually bring some prisoners from the jail to help. We at the department are going to feed them chili and peanut butter sandwiches,” he said.

The department is moving forward with plans for a turkey dinner that had previously been advertised for Saturday, May 16. “We’re looking for a good turnout,” Breeden said. “There will be raffles on several items. It’s going to be a big day!”

Breeden urged Worthville residents to send in their fire subscriptions early, if possible.

Normally the payments are due in June or July. The dues are $25 per household and will help alleviate the financial woes of the department.

Subscriptions should be mailed to the Worthville Volunteer Fire Department, P.O. Box 5, Worthville, Ky.