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Md. county to study how fire, EMS handle finances

The aim is to give the 26 agencies a tool to track their money in wake of financial troubles and theft

By Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

CUMBERLAND, Md. — Allegany County volunteer fire and rescue companies have faced troubled times over their financial practices, including cases of embezzlement and other problems that have closed at least one department.

The county hopes a study of how the departments handle their funding and recommendations for better financial accounting will avoid future troubles. To that end, the county is advertising a request for proposals on the study next week.

A tight timeline has been set for getting the study underway.

"We want to move forward quickly after reviewing the recommendations and implement them," said Richard DeVore, the county's director of emergency services. DeVore said implementation could require equipment and software to help the departments with accounting and watching cash transactions. If equipment is needed, DeVore said he'd hope to have a package ready for the next county budget cycle in the spring of 2015.

The submission date for proposals is May 13, with evaluation of the bids May 14 through 16. An award is scheduled to be made May 22.

DeVore said he believes most of the departments are doing a god job with tracking their finances. Some departments have financial audits, but others can't afford a formal audit, DeVore has said. Implementing better practices could help restore public faith in the departments and help them with their fundraising efforts.

The most recent case to make the news was the conviction of a former member of the Corriganville Volunteer Fire department for stealing $5,000. Other departments hit by theft or embezzlement include Baltimore Pike and Clarysville. The McCoole department was taken out of service last year after it ended up more than $1 million in debt and the station in foreclosure.

A fairly extensive evaluation of current department practices will be required by the company taking up the study.

"The RFP requests a study to be performed of the 26 volunteer fire and emergency medical services departments and one auxiliary unit in Allegany County. The study should also include the Allegany and Garrett County Fire and Rescue Association. The study should include a review of existing account procedures utilized in the different organizations. The study should then make recommendations on improvements and standardizations ... to provide a greater accountability of funds within each organization," the request for proposals states.

A critical part of the study will be the recommendations, which the request for proposals said should include a set of generally accepted accounting practices to be implemented in all fire and EMS organizations in Allegany County; a common software platform that may be adopted to computerize the accounting process; training in financial accounting practices; and methods to identify fraud and theft in an organization.

The study will be presented to the county's emergency services board.

The cost of the study can't be estimated until the bids come in, DeVore said. The volunteer departments will not be asked to contribute to the costs of the study, county officials said. The county will attempt to find funding for the study.


(c)2014 the Cumberland Times News (Cumberland, Md.)

Distributed by MCT Information Services

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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