Antietam Fire Co. at center of bond bill battle

March 11, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ |

ANNAPOLIS — Two of Washington County's Republican state lawmakers have urged a budget subcommittee to kill Democratic Del. John P. Donoghue's request for state funding for a Hagerstown fire company.

Antietam Fire Co. wants to move from Summit Avenue to the vacant Four Seasons RV Service and Sales building on Potomac Avenue to better serve the city's North End.

The plan depends on a mix of state money and help from the city of Hagerstown.

If Donoghue's request is denied, "most likely, we will abandon the project," said Robert Daveler, Antietam's treasurer.

In January, Donoghue filed a bill seeking $200,000 from the state's fiscal  2012 capital budget.

On Monday, Dels. LeRoy E. Myers Jr. and Andrew A. Serafini — the Washington County delegation's chairman and vice chairman, respectively — wrote a letter opposing Donoghue's bill.

Citing the state's "weak economic climate," their letter asks a House budget subcommittee to reject Donoghue's bill, which is scheduled to be heard Saturday.

The letter said Antietam already is trying for Maryland State Firemen's Association funding, so Donoghue's request isn't necessary.

However, the company didn't apply for that funding, Daveler said.

He said firemen's association funding might take several months, and the company's contract for the RV building expires at the end of April.

Myers later wrote a follow-up letter clarifying that the association's funding was an option for Antietam.

In a telephone interview, Myers said he wrote the letter on behalf of the delegation when the subcommittee chairwoman asked if the delegation supported Donoghue's bill.

Myers said it was a matter of consistency. A month ago, the delegation declined to seek similar funding for C&O Canal National Historical Park in Williamsport.

The delegation doesn't dislike either project, but is concerned about the state's financial straits, Serafini said.

He said he wished the letter clarified that the delegation didn't support Donoghue's request, rather than asking that it be killed.

Donoghue said Myers and Serafini didn't tell him about the letter and had no business interfering in his attempt to get money for his district. He criticized their "lack of courtesy."

Donoghue brushed off the letter as meaningless, saying he'll use "all 21 years of my relationships" to get his request approved.

The $200,000 for renovations is only part of Antietam's plan. The fire company hopes to buy the property through a financing agreement with the city.

City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said Friday the mayor and council support the project, although there's no formal agreement yet.

If a fire company plans to move more than a mile, it's supposed to first go through the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association, said Glenn Fishack, the association's president.

Although Antietam's plan has been in the works for a while, the association didn't get a request from the company until Friday, Fishack said.

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