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City will delay vote to hire nine firefighters

December 15, 2007|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN - The Hagerstown City Council will not vote to hire nine firefighters during its meeting next week.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said Friday he would not push for a vote when the council meets Tuesday as he vowed to do earlier this week. After viewing minutes from a past meeting, Metzner said he discovered that he agreed to wait until January to discuss the issue.

In good faith, he said he would honor his word.

Metzner said during a council meeting Tuesday that he would push for the vote next week despite warnings from members of the city staff that the city might not be able to afford the new positions.

City Finance Director Alfred Martin said possible cuts in state funding to municipalities and the uncertainty of knowing the outcome of upcoming property assessments - which are a major revenue stream for the city - were among the reasons the city should wait. In addition, Martin said the fire department already has spent about $158,965 of its $175,000 annual overtime budget in the first five months of the fiscal year.

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Martin and City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman advised the council to wait until April to discuss hiring the firefighters. By that time, they said they would have a better grasp of the city's financial situation.

Metzner said the hirings have been put off long enough. He was backed by Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh, who said public safety should be the priority.

Councilman Martin Brubaker and Councilwomen Kelly S. Cromer and Alesia Parson-McBean said the council should heed Martin's and Zimmerman's advice. Cromer said she would not vote for the firefighters if it meant raising taxes, which Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said couldn't be avoided unless cuts were made.

To hire the firefighters, Bruchey said the property tax rate would have to increase about 2.2 cents for every $100 of the assessed value of a home.

Martin said a property tax increase would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $22 per year.

Hiring nine firefighters would cost the city about $534,042 in fiscal year 2008-09, according to city records.

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