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Sixteen new lieutenants in Carroll’s Fire and EMS department to be inducted this week

May 16, 2023

Carroll County will induct 16 lieutenants into the new Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services Thursday during a commissioning ceremony that county officials are calling historic.

The induction comes three years after the county created its first combination fire and EMS department.

"It's extremely important," District 5 Commissioner Ed Rothstein said. "This is an initial step to creating our first-class fire and EMS in Carroll County. It's an effort to ensure Carroll countians get the very best in safety and security that they deserve."

During the ceremony, starting at 7 p.m. at the Carroll Community College Theatre, 1601 Washington Road in Westminster, lieutenants will receive badges and take the oath of office.

The lieutenants were hired March 2 and have been training ever since. Among them are 12 station lieutenants, four each assigned to the Westminster, Sykesville and Mount Airy fire and rescue companies, working 24 hours on duty and 72 hours off.

They will serve as station supervisors, responding to emergency and non-emergency events, maintaining station quarters and equipment, providing training and quality assurance "and many other duties related to the management of a fire station."

The four other lieutenants are shift commanders, overseeing the entire department while on 24-hour shifts. They will respond to all major incidents, administer staffing and serve as the senior representative of the department to other agencies.

District 2 Commissioner Ken Kiler said Thursday's ceremony is historic for the county.

"It's a great, giant leap," he said.

The push to create a combination paid and volunteer county fire service began in Carroll County more than a decade ago. In 2018, the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation allowing the county to establish the new department and in October 2020, commissioners unanimously voted to pass an ordinance creating it.

Director and Chief Michael Robinson Sr. began in his role in September 2021, and has been charged with the overall direction, administration and evaluation of the department. Under his leadership, the new Department of Fire and EMS has been purchasing equipment, supplies and vehicles, and hiring personnel.

Robinson has said he is planning to hire up to 240 employees in the next two years.

Staffing and equipment is needed for 13 of the county's 14 volunteer fire companies. The Harney Volunteer Fire Company in Taneytown will receive no new staffing, as it has no ambulances and a low call volume.

Ted Zaleski, director of the county's Department of Management and Budget, stated in a fiscal 2024 budget document that the ongoing costs associated with the transition to a county fire and EMS department will cost about $20 million per year.

"We believe we are closer to capturing the full cost of implementation," he said. "As with any of our long-range planning efforts, the projections will continue to be refined as more information becomes available."

In the $542.8 million operating budget for fiscal 2024 approved by commissioners last week, the Department of Fire and EMS was allotted a total of $23.5 million, including money for round-the-clock EMS coverage, administrative and operational costs.

Kiler said he has concerns about the long-term costs to the county, and that the ongoing process of forming the Department of Fire and EMS could be forced to "slow down," depending on financial obligations elsewhere.

"I think we’ll have to make choices," he said. "We have limited resources, and we have to see what the taxpayers of Carroll County really want."

Rothstein, the District 5 commissioner, said the county recognizes the large expense in creating the department.

"But we’ve done it methodically in the planning and execution," he said. "We’re working with colleagues and staff to determine the actual costs. It's important to ensure we have the additional revenue."

The four shift commander lieutenants are being paid an hourly wage of $33.76, and 12 station lieutenants are paid $30.95 an hour.