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Request for new $4.5 fire station in Towson doesn't make budget plan

Budgets and BudgetingKevin KamenetzSafety of CitizensDavid Marks

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz's budget package unveiled last week contained a fair number of projects for schools, roads, public safety and other needs.

But despite a recommendation from the Baltimore County Planning Board, the budget didn't include $4.5 million to rebuild the Towson Fire Station No. 1.

The request for a new building has been long standing, and has been included in other capital budget requests, according to Edward Gilliss, chairman of the Planning Board.

Gilliss said the board fulfilled its obligation to provide a capital budget proposal — but members know it's wholly within Kamenetz's authority to remove projects as well.

"The fire house in Towson has been on the list of things that I think both the fire department, planning board, and administration desire, but it's just not yet in the abilities of the county to carry that out," Gilliss said.

"We all hope that the budget will improve and the firehouse will be part of the plan sometime in the near term," Gilliss said.

County fire spokeswoman Elise Armacost said the Towson station, one of the county's oldest, "continues to serve us well, and we will continue to use it and provide fire protection to our residents for as long as we have to stay in our building."

But 5th District County Councilman David Marks said he is concerned that the project didn't make the cut.

"It concerns me any time that a fire station is suddenly deleted from the budget request," said Marks, who represents Towson. "I think there's a public safety concern."

The allotment would have been for the FY14 budget, but would have been included in the bond referendum that will face voters in November. The referendum, if passed, will essentially authorize the county to use bonds to pay for capital projects.

Marks said that other capital projects, such as $20 million in each of the next two years for unitemized road resurfacing, have been included in the project, so it's not a matter of not borrowing money for 2014.

He said he's asked the council's auditors to look into the matter to see if anything can be done to advance the fire station project.

County spokeswoman Ellen Kobler said the Kamenetz administration "is aware of the Planning Board's recommendation and agrees that it is a strong recommendation.

"The project is under consideration, and if we decide to move forward, we are committed to finding the money," Kobler said.

Armacost said that the county provides fire and EMS protection from the station every day, but called the Towson station one "we look forward to replacing at some point."

"We will be thrilled, eventually, to have a new station," she said, "whenever that comes to pass."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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