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Hagerstown expected to hire additional firefighters

Three council members favor spending $535,000 on nine new hires

Three council members favor spending $535,000 on nine new hires

January 23, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN - Hagerstown Fire Chief Gary Hawbaker said he was thankful Tuesday after a majority of the City Council all but guaranteed they would vote next week to spend roughly $535,000 to hire nine firefighters.

During a council work session Tuesday, Councilman Lewis C. Metzner and Councilwomen Penny M. Nigh and Alesia Parson-McBean said they would support the chief's request to hire the firefighters this fiscal year.

Councilman Martin Brubaker and Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer said after the work session that they would have to think about the issue further. Brubaker proposed hiring four firefighters and one police officer this fiscal year and five firefighters and one police officer in Fiscal Year 2008-09.

"For me, it's been a long time coming," Hawbaker said after the work session. "I just want to thank the mayor and council. I know this was a difficult issue."

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Hawbaker said the new hires would bring the Hagerstown Fire Department up to the minimum suggested staffing of two firefighters per truck.

The fire department's current staffing averages one to two firefighters per truck, depending on the shift, Metzner said.

The council debated the issue for about 45 minutes.

Metzner said he was concerned that delaying the vote could postpone the hirings indefinitely.

"I'm not impressed with that idea," he said.

Cromer questioned whether the city would have the money to pay for the hirings after City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman and City Finance Director Alfred E. Martin told the council its members should wait until April to hire the firefighters.

Zimmerman said city officials would have a better idea in the spring of the city's financial situation.

"We're not saying, 'Hire them,'" Zimmerman said. "We're saying, 'Wait until April ... Then you'll have a better picture.'"

Zimmerman said city staff would work on a way to fund the positions without raising property taxes.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said some tough decisions would have to be made because the city is projected to face a $1.2 million deficit next year.

The mayor said after the meeting that budget cuts would be unavoidable as a result.

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