Columbia County Commissioners will consider Thursday whether to pay Sheriff's Office volunteers for the hours they spent helping out during the Bugaboo fires in May. But not all the commissioners say that's a good idea and some of the volunteers agree with them.
You may remember last month, county commissioners voted to pay more than $11,000 to the volunteer firefighters for their time fighting the fires. Sheriff Bill Goottee says it's only fair his volunteers get the same treatment.
The Citizen Service Units put in a combined 136 hours handing out food, water and other necessities to the firefighters battling the wildfire. Gootee says without them, firefighters wouldn't have gotten the resources they needed in a timely fashion.
If the Commissioners approve the agenda item, the total tab is more than $1300.
"One thing you don't want is causing any morale problems with people saying, 'hey look sheriff, they got paid, why can't we?'," says Sheriff Gootee. "So I just took the bull by the horns and said, 'hey look, county commissioners, my volunteers deserve it as well."
County Commissioner Dewey Weaver was one of two commissioners to vote against paying the volunteer firefighters. He says despite the extraordinary events, volunteer means volunteer. And without a prior policy in place it was an idea he wouldn't support.
One volunteer with more than a third of the logged hours told WCJB that he didn't do the work for the money and if it turned out he would be paid for his efforts, he would donate the dollars to charity.
By Dan Breitwieser, WCJB TV20 News
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