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Tip jar money sought for fire training center

March 04, 1997

By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Staff Writer

The Washington County Fire and Rescue Association wants more tip jar money to help pay for a new training center at the crossroads of Interstate 70 and Greencastle Pike.

Under the 1996 tip jar law, the association receives 40 percent of Washington County Gaming Commission funds.

Fire and rescue association President Jay Grimes asked the commission's support Monday for a request that an additional 5 percent be allocated for the center. The Maryland General Assembly must alter the tip jar law to change the percentages.

Construction of a 10,000-square-foot building and purchase of 17 acres of land would cost about $625,000, Grimes said.

The commission decided to hold off on making any recommendation until more detailed numbers on a budget for the facility were available.

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Gaming commission member Paul Muldowney said that the fire association will receive nearly $300,000 more a year in the next two years as contributions from private clubs increase.

Under the 1996 tip jar law, the clubs must contribute 10 percent of their gross profits from tip jars - the amount after payouts but before expenses - to charity. The amount will increase to 15 percent on July 1, and to 20 percent on July 1, 1998.

Commission Coordinator Kathy Sterling has projected $1.3 million in commission receipts for this fiscal year, which began July 1.

Sterling projected commission receipts would reach $1.75 million in fiscal 1998 and would climb to $2.15 million in fiscal 1999. Those figures don't include proceeds from the fire companies' own tip jar sales, which they keep, or direct and in-kind contributions from private clubs to charities.

Gaming commission President Sue Tuckwell asked why the fire companies couldn't foot some of the bill out of their own tip jar monies, or out of the 40 percent they receive from the county.

Grimes has said the existing fire training center in Hagerstown does not have adequate classroom facilities and has limited room for expansion.

County Commissioner R. Lee Downey said he doesn't support giving the association an additional 5 percent at this point. He said it is too late this year to ask the legislature to change the funding formula.

Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers said he favored providing the additional funds but didn't think the delegation would be willing to change the percentage.

Commissioner James R. Wade and Hagerstown Mayor Steven T. Sager have said they don't favor having two training centers in the county.

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