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Candidates meet, debate funding for rescue service

April 18, 2001

Candidates meet, debate funding for rescue service



By DAN KULIN

dank@herald-mail.com

Four Hagerstown City Council candidates who attended a Wednesday meeting at Community Rescue Service said the city should give more money to the financially troubled ambulance company.

The other six council candidates and the two mayoral candidates did not show up for the meeting at CRS headquarters on Eastern Boulevard in Hagerstown.

Democrat Penny May Nigh said she would take money budgeted for the city's ice rink to increase the CRS subsidy.

"We're talking citizens' lives compared to an ice rink," Nigh said.

Republican Victoria K. Bodnar said money from a landlord registration program she supports creating would free up money to increase CRS funding.

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Bodnar said if the city charged landlords $50 per housing unit, that money could pay for the city's property maintenance code enforcement officers. She also said the city should consider imposing a fire and rescue tax or fee to raise more money for CRS.

Democrat Kristin B. Aleshire said, "I support finding a way to grant higher support."

Aleshire said the city should increase its cash contribution to CRS and find ways to offset CRS' costs.

For example, CRS loans could be refinanced to make them interest-free loans, a step the current City Council has mentioned.

Republican Carol N. Moller said the city should give more to CRS.

"I just think it's a priority and you can underline that," Moller said.

CRS interim Director J. Michael Nye told the candidates that CRS needs $200,000 from the city to cover operating deficits. Nye said an additional $200,000 to pay for new ambulances and other equipment, which had been part of previous requests, should be available through other grants.

The City Council and Washington County Commissioners each contributed $20,000 to CRS in March.

The city's proposed 2001-2002 budget includes $50,000 for emergency services. That money is expected to assist CRS.

The four council candidates at the meeting said $50,000 is not enough.

Nye said, "Whether we get $50,000 or don't get $50,000, that's not enough."

Nye said invitations to the Wednesday meeting were mailed to all 12 candidates in the May 15 city election.

"The public debate concerning CRS operations seemed to have been lost in the election," Nye said.

During the meeting, Nye gave the candidates an overview of the CRS financial situation. CRS costs are rising faster than revenues, he said.

After accounting for the $40,000 from the city and county the ambulance company is expecting to run up a $149,000 operating deficit this year, Nye said.

Candidates who did not attend the meeting were: Democratic council candidates N. Linn Hendershot and Steven T. Sager and incumbent Lewis C. Metzner; and Republican council candidates Richard G. Everhart and Michael E. Nehring.

Alfred W. Boyer, a Republican running for re-election, told CRS he wouldn't be at the meeting because he's out of town.

The two mayoral candidates, Republican Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II, and Councilman William M. Breichner, a Democrat, also did not attend the meeting.

CRS serves about 34,000 homes in and around Hagerstown.

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