Cumberland Times-News

Local News

July 8, 2013

Grand jury will review McCoole fire department

Residents concerned of asset mismanagement

CUMBERLAND — An Allegany County grand jury is scheduled to review an investigation into the demise of the McCoole Volunteer Fire Department on July 17, according to State’s Attorney Michael Twigg.

Last month, Allegany County Commission President Mike McKay and some McCoole area residents wrote letters to Twigg asking for answers in regard to the financial collapse of the once-solvent fire company.

The county Department of Emergency Services announced in April that the McCoole station, which had only one truck and four firefighters in the end, would cease to operate.

Emergency services director Dick DeVore met with residents last month to help shape details for future fire service in the area. He planned to meet again this month but has postponed the July 22 public meeting to await the outcome of the grand jury’s review.

“I hope this will bring some resolution for this situation. People are looking for answers,” DeVore told the Times-News on Sunday. “I want to wait and see where it goes.”

About 60 people attended the June meeting wanting to know how their fire station ended up nearly $1 million in debt and in foreclosure.

DeVore asked that the meeting focus on the future. Officials talked about the creation of a McCoole substation to be administered by the Rawlings Volunteer Fire Department.

McCoole could have its fire district covered by Rawlings and Potomac Volunteer Fire Company of Westernport with Keyser also responding as a mutual-aid company.

DeVore, along with Wes Foor, fire chief of Rawlings, also spoke of the advantages of establishing a fire tax because an annual audit by a certified public accountant would be required.

Residents voiced concerns about mismanagement of the fire department’s assets under the administration of former Fire Chief Charles Pearce Jr.

Allegations of possible wrongdoing to be examined include the payment of $3,800 in rent by the fire company to the Hamburger Haven for which Pearce is a resident agent, the use of bingo proceeds and other fire department funds, and the purchase and selling of fire equipment.

Twigg said last month that witnesses will be called to see if there is concrete evidence that could result in an indictment by the grand jury.

“The jury may also ask for more evidence,” Twigg said at that time.

Twigg said he has met with some members of the community on multiple occasions in regard to the case.

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