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The Miller County Volunteer Fire Department Committee made slight changes to the proposed new county VFD handbook on Tuesday.

The changes to the handbook, which is modeled after the one used by Conway County, are minimal and will eliminate the portions not applicable to Miller County.

One significant change is in the Public Relations portion of the handbook. The original stated "All members should refrain from using your affiliation with the Fire Department for any type of personal gain."

Justice Andy LaGrone said that "should" needed to be changed to "must."

The committee members agreed.

It creates emergency services districts for the county and also puts a five-member non-firefighter Administrative Fire Board in place to oversee the departments. Two of the board members would be nominated by the fire departments, two by the Miller County Quorum Court and one by the judge, who would then approve all five. VFD purchases over a certain amount would require approval by the board. If departments do not agree with the board's decision, they can then appeal to the Quorum Court, which would have the final decision.

LaGrone, who has been with the VFD for more than 30 years, said he was "basically happy" with the new handbook and policies therein.

"I agree with portions of it, but I'm told that this is the way it will be," he said. "I like the way the original was set up, but we're told it will be changed, so it will be changed."

Justice Carl Standridge said he thought the county should try the new guidelines and see how it goes.

"I think it's something we need to try," he said. "Yes, we're going to have to critique it as we go. I just hope we can find five concerned citizens out there that are not firefighters, people on that board to oversee the VFD."

He said he thought the combination of board members would be a positive thing.

"I think that should be a good mix, but I haven't seen any names turned in yet," he said. "I think we need to try it. I don't know why people seem to be upset about it. Let's try it. Let's give it a year. If it works, great, if not, then we will do something else. We want the best for Miller County that we can have."

The new handbook has been controversial for the Miller County VFD since its proposal in the spring by Miller County Judge Cathy Hardin Harrison. The committee had begun reviewing the previous handbook, which was prepared by the firefighters themselves, when Harrison then proposed the Conway model. Many were vocal about the proposed guidelines, some adamantly against it and some decidedly in favor of it.

Judge Harrison said the changes needed to be made because the current model was not working and that all the firefighters, stations and chiefs should be held accountable for their respective duties.

The committee will review the changes during a meeting scheduled for 5:30 p.m. July 30 in the second-floor courtroom of the Miller County Courthouse. If approved, it would then go before the Quorum Court for final approval.

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