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Town oversight of Fire Department may last

STRASBURG — Members of the Strasburg Fire Department Restructuring Committee are looking at potential changes to the  department bylaws that would give the town permanent oversight over volunteer firefighters.

Mayor Rich Orndorff said in an interview Wednesday that members of the Restructuring Committee are looking into how the town can prevent similar situations — where the town, in his view, has to step in and make changes for the department — from happening again.

“Basically, what we’re looking for is mechanisms in place to ensure that situations like this won’t need to be repeated,” Orndorff said. “In other words, we won’t need a restructuring committee to come in and go through the process that we’re going through.”

Town Manager Wyatt Pearson said that Restructuring Committee members are considering pushing forward measures that would give the town a final say over whom the Fire Department chooses as its chief.

The committee may also have the Fire Department enter into a leasing agreement with the town or enter into a contract with the department for its service.

But any changes that would create permanent oversight over the department are a long way from occurring, Pearson said, and it is unclear whether the Restructuring Committee will end up supporting any of the measures Pearson mentioned.

“We’re working with our attorney, trying to figure out what’s the most common structure across the commonwealth and what makes the most sense for Strasburg,” Pearson said.

Still, Orndorff said that the committee supports enacting some measures that would give the town more oversight over its Fire Department.

“We feel, collectively, that there needs to be some (oversight), and we don’t know what that’ll look like,” Orndorff said.

In the more immediate future, Pearson said the committee intends to make changes to the department’s bylaws aimed at changing some of the administrative procedures within the department.

“We’re going to get [the department] set as far as it goes for operating their administrative side of things with the bylaws, and, as we progress toward completion with the restructuring committee, that’s when we’ll have a more formal idea of how we want to structure (any oversight measures),” Pearson said.

During Tuesday’s Town Council meeting, Orndorff said that the Restructuring Committee will likely remain in place for another year, lasting a total of between 12 and 18 months.

“I’d like for it to be [finished within] 30 days, as would the town manager and some of the other committee members,” Orndorff said. “Because this is tough.”

But he said that the committee needs to spend more time deliberating changes in the department’s policies.

Meanwhile, the committee is set to discuss some changes to the department’s bylaws during its meeting at 9 a.m. May 24, Orndorff said. Those changes will not, however, include oversight measures.

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