ledtters to the editor - 4/14/02

April 15, 2002

Mooney not a friend of fire/rescue workers

z By Clarence E. "Chip" Jewell

In 2001, legislation was passed to maintain the funding for emergency services throughout the state by increasing the tag fees by $3. This legislation was a bipartisan effort that generated approximately $13 million. Without this legislation, fire and rescue companies in Frederick and Washington counties would have seen a direct decrease in state funding of more than $200,000.

Without this action last year, state training, trauma centers and the Maryland State Police helicopter would have all suffered dramatically. Sen. Alex Mooney voted against this funding measure.

The present budget proposed by the governor indicates $5 million of the fund will be transferred to be used in other areas in an attempt to balance the budget. We most certainly need to make every effort to restore this money back into the Emergency Medical Systems Operations Fund. However, in a pure election-year ploy, a letter is being distributed to area fire companies from Senator Mooney's office extolling the virtues of this fund and the need to restore funding.


That letter is nothing short of blatant hypocrisy.

Last year, Senator Mooney proudly announced the fact he voted against this funding because it was a hidden tax. Senator Mooney was one of only five senators in the entire state to vote against this funding measure. Senator Mooney was the only senator in Western Maryland to vote against this funding. Yet, this year, Senator Mooney wants to lead the charge to restore this money and be viewed as a savior to the fire and rescue service.

Sorry senator, we are not that stupid. If you are that concerned, you would have been supportive last year, when the entire funding was in jeopardy. You voted against the funding measure knowing it would decrease funding to companies in Frederick and Washington counties by more than $200,000. And to add insult to injury, to refer to the tragedy of Sept. 11 in the letter only makes a mockery of the brother and sister fire and rescue personnel that made the supreme sacrifice.

Many legislators are working hard to restore the funding during this session - legislators who stood side by side with the fire and rescue service last year to make this fund a reality. Their continued efforts and sincere concern for the public safety will result in success.

On the other hand, Senator Mooney's vain attempt at appearing to be supporting the fire and rescue service should result in an apology to the 5,000 volunteer and career members of the Frederick and Washington Counties' fire and rescue services.

Chip Jewell represents Frederick and Washington counties on the Executive Committee of the Maryland State Firemen's Association and is a past president of the Frederick County Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association.

Don't be fooled; city living costs more

To the editor:

Bob Maginnis' article of March 27 was intended as an early April Fools prank, right? The rhetoric spun to the paper by city officials could not have been more disingenuous than if Ponzi himself had prepared the presentation.

The county collects roughly $13.9 million in real estate tax from city residents and "refunds" a paltry $894,294 to the city allegedly to reduce the city residents' tax burden for unused, unneeded and/or duplicate services the city already provides its citizens. In actuality this is nothing more than the county acting as a proxy tax collector for the city. Of the roughly $13 million left after the county "pays" the city, 50 percent ($4.5 million) is used solely to fund services that are of doubtful benefit to city residents. We subsidize local roads, bridges, fire departments, capital improvements and many other services that only benefit county residents as far away as the Hancock and south county areas.

City residents should only be paying their fair share of the county costs of schools, court system, jails, landfill and a few other limited items. Who cares that the county has less public safety personnel to cover "the whole county" while we have 100 police officers for a 10 square-mile area as Kautz so proudly proclaims? It just means it is perceived by some that the city has more criminal activity, directly attributable to the close proximity of MCI, than the county does. What's more, county police personnel don't cover "the whole county." There are vast areas of the county such as state parks and forests, MCI, federal reservations and parks (all tax exempt I might add) that have their own public safety personnel or pay the county for public safety coverage. All other cities in Washington County have their own police departments and there are many, many volunteer fire departments serving the county and its cities, including Hagerstown. The operative word there is volunteer.

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