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Hagerstown to discuss firefighter hiring

January 21, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN ? After postponing a decision late last year to hire nine firefighters at a cost of almost $535,000, the Hagerstown City Council is to revisit the issue today during a regularly scheduled work session.

In December, the council tabled a proposal to hire the firefighters when City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman and City Finance Director Alfred E. Martin suggested to wait until the city's upcoming financial projections were more solid. Martin said city officials needed to know, among other things, whether the Maryland General Assembly would cut state aid to municipal governments.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said Monday he had made up his mind to hire the firefighters. The new hires would bring staffing up to the minimum standard of allotting each firetruck with at least two firefighters, he said.

Depending on the shift, the Hagerstown Fire Department now averages one to two firefighters per truck, Metzner said. Ideally, the city should have three firefighters per truck.

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"If we hire these firefighters in this fiscal year ... I'll be happy," Metzner said.

Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh also said Monday that she would support hiring the firefighters. Hagerstown needs the additional staff to keep up with the city's growth, she said.

Councilman Martin Brubaker and Councilwomen Kelly S. Cromer and Alesia Parson-McBean could not be reached for comment. All three said last month, however, that the council should heed Martin's and Zimmerman's advice to wait.

Cromer said she would not vote to hire the firefighters if it meant raising taxes.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said Monday the city would have to raise taxes or make big cuts in the budget to hire all nine firefighters.

"That's the only answer to this," he said.

Bruchey said city officials should know today whether the issue would be voted on during the council's regular meeting Jan. 29.

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