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SCORE scores on fire district

The volunteer group of small business counselors known as SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) will play a vital role in development of the new area-wide fire district
   When the Crook County Rural Fire Protection District No. 1 and the city of Prineville officially combine into one fire protection area, the "rural" part of the name will be dropped and there will be a new office manager on the job to help make the transition.
   Voters overwhelmingly approved the idea of Prineville's fire department being annexed into the fire district. When the ballots had been counted in the September, 2000 special election, approximately 45 percent of registered voters had cast their ballots, and the number of YES votes cast were equally high: within the rural district - 75.35 percent and in the city - 63.32 percent.
   With voter approval, the unknown increase in property taxes from property owners within the city limits will allow the district to hire six more staff members. That was the benefit of the annexation - to be able to increase staffing in order to offer 24-hour per day, seven day per week emergency fire and medical service. But it won't happen overnight.
   One of the first of those new staff members will be a full-time office manager. Fire Chief Bob Schnoor, CCRFPD No. 1 board president Karen Lang and two members of SCORE spent most of Monday going through the three dozen or so applications for the job.
   SCORE was asked to share their expertise in not only hiring the new office manager, but in helping to set up the new, expanded fire district. SCORE, Service Corps of Retired Executives, is a volunteer organization made up of retired business executives who are available to help start a new business or improve ongoing businesses. In this case, they have been asked to get the new combined fire district off on the right foot.
   Judy Goodrich, the SCORE counselor called in to help out, explained that when the new fire district officially separates itself from city and county management, it will have to be ready to take over its own budgeting and financial responsibilities. As of July 1, the fire district will have to deal with payroll, accounts payable and taxes.
   "There are now three different people working on billing for ambulance services," Karen Lang pointed out, and many of those ambulance calls get lost in the process. "This will allow (the fire department) people to do what they are suppose to. For example, Liz Morgan can then do her EMT job. and not have to deal with the billing."
   SCORE volunteers will do more than help hire the new office manager. According to Goodrich, there are 24 volunteer counselors in the central Oregon region and they typically get involved with 650 to 700 projects a year. Although SCORE received a small amount of funding from the Small Business Administration, "that just about covers out stamps and postage," Goodrich added, each counselor is an unpaid volunteer and even supplies his own vehicle, pays for his gas as well as his time.
   Plus the service is free.
   Goodrich will work with the new office manager to organize all the financial and business aspects of the new fire district. SCORE volunteers provide counseling on every aspect of a business ... from writing the business plan to bookkeeping, business law, credit and collections all the way, if necessary, to alternatives to bankruptcy.