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Lawmakers reject funding for new Antietam Fire Co. station

March 30, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com
  • The Antietam Fire Co. is seen at its current location on Summit Avenue in downtown Hagerstown.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

ANNAPOLIS — A House of Delegates budget committee Wednesday rejected a funding request for the Antietam Fire Co., which was counting on $200,000 to open a new station in Hagerstown’s North End.

But Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, said he and others are looking at other funding sources for the fire company.

“This is just a start,” he said of the denial.

A few weeks ago, Robert Daveler, Antietam’s treasurer, said that without the state funding, “most likely, we will abandon the project.”

On Wednesday, Donoghue pledged: “I won’t let that happen.”

Reached by phone, Daveler said that he couldn’t comment on how the rejection affects Antietam until he spoke with Donoghue.

The House and the Senate each have $7.5 million in discretionary funds for the state’s fiscal  2012 capital budget. Lawmakers submit requests — known as bond bills — for funding for capital projects in their districts. Funding awards must be matched by the recipients.

This year, the House Appropriations capital budget subcommittee decided not to give money to firehouse projects, said Alexandra Hughes, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel.

The subcommittee presented its recommendations Wednesday to the full committee, which approved them.

Now, the subcommittee is directing applicants to a separate revolving loan fund that can help fire companies, Hughes said.

The revolving loan fund is administered by the Maryland State Firemen’s Association.

Antietam previously considered seeking funding through the association, but decided not to apply. Daveler has said that process might have taken several months — too long for the fire company.

Antietam, which has had a Summit Avenue station for more than a century, has a contract on the vacant Four Seasons RV Service and Sales building on Potomac Avenue. Daveler said the contract expires at the end of April.

Most Republicans in the Washington County delegation opposed the bond-bill process this session because of the state’s financial straits and didn’t submit any requests, rejecting a proposal by the C&O Canal Historical Park for a Williamsport project.

In early March, Dels. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., the delegation chairman, and Andrew A. Serafini, the vice chairman, wrote a letter to the capital budget subcommittee, urging it to reject Donoghue’s funding request for Antietam.

The letter said that Antietam had already sought Maryland State Firemen’s Association funding, but that wasn’t true, which Myers noted in a follow-up letter.

Hughes said House leadership is aware that fire companies were shut out of bond bills this year and is helping to steer them toward the other potential funding sources.

She said it also might be possible to get fire companies funding when the Senate splits up its bond-bill money soon.

Or, fire companies could get money when the House and Senate negotiate a compromise after each chamber approves separate versions of the state’s capital budget, Donoghue said.

The House’s $7.5 million was designated for projects in Baltimore City and 11 counties, including Frederick and Allegany, as well as some projects that are considered statewide.

Antietam’s plan was to use the $200,000 to help renovate the former RV building. Daveler said the city of Hagerstown has expressed interest in helping to finance the purchase of the property, although there’s no formal agreement.

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