www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-county/towson/ph-tt-fire-station-1205-20121204,0,3151035.story

baltimoresun.com

Proposal reportedly brewing for new fire station at Towson park

Dumbarton Middle air conditioning project also in the cards

By Jon Meoli, jmeoli@tribune.com

3:28 PM EST, December 4, 2012

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A proposal to build a new county fire station on the property of Towson Manor Park and fund air conditioning at Dumbarton Middle School was presented by county officials last week to Towson's state legislative delegation as a "done deal," according to state Sen. Jim Brochin.

But officials for the administration of County Executive Kevin Kamenetz say an analysis of county properties is ongoing, and declined to discuss any specific plan.

According to Brochin, legislators were told the new fire station and air conditioning project would be funded after the current Towson fire station at the corner of York Road and Bosley Avenue is demolished and the land sold for development.

But this week Brochin joined some community leaders and concerned citizens in lamenting the lack of communication surrounding the deal.

"I'm not saying the goal (of air conditioning at Dumbarton) isn't admirable … but if you're going to do this, do it right," Brochin said. "Make sure you involve the community rather than spring it on them as a done deal. This was brought to us as a done deal, that the (request for bids) is going out in a couple of weeks."

Towson Patch first reported the story, citing sources familiar with the situation.

Don Mohler, chief of staff for the Kamenetz administration, said this week that the executive has only "commissioned his staff to take a thorough review of county-owned property" in order to identify valuable land that may be better served if businesses could buy the property and be added to the tax rolls.

"It's no secret one of the most valuable parcels is where the current fire station is," Mohler said. "I would hope within two weeks we'll be able to announce the results of that analysis … and how we're going to proceed within two weeks."

Paul Hartman, an Aigburth Manor resident and vice president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations, said the proposal, though unconfirmed, "blindsided a whole lot of folks."

"I would have appreciated a little better communication with the community, but we hope to meet with the county administration and discuss the proposed fire station relocation," he said. "Green space in Towson is very hard to come by. Reducing the amount is just not a good idea."

Hartman, who will become president of the GTCCA later this month, said the organization has asked for a meeting with the county executive's office to clarify details of the proposal and perhaps find an alternative location for a new fire station.

"I can't imagine there isn't another suitable location in Towson," he said, though Hartman allowed that the county's outside-the-box thinking on the deal could produce good results.

Both Brochin and Hartman also expressed concern about placing the new fire station on open space that abuts homes.

Fifth District County Councilman David Marks, who represents Towson, declined comment on the plan itself, but said "the community really needs to be briefed."

"In November, I gave the county executive's staff the names of people they need to consult, and I won't comment any further until all the stakeholders have been engaged," Marks said.

Meeting with school advocates

The county executive's office engaged in the outreach process Tuesday afternoon, when it hosted a meeting with Towson-area school advocates Juliet Fisher, Cathi Forbes and Yara Cheikh.

Fisher, who has joined other Dumbarton parents in the push to upgrade some school facilities with climate control, said after the meeting that the Kamenetz administration described the deal as one that was more about replacing a run-down fire station that requires millions of dollars in renovations with a modern facility than air conditioning the school.

The deal would be contingent on a buyer meeting the county's asking price, Fisher said, but any proceeds beyond the cost of a new firehouse will be used toward air conditioning at Dumbarton.

She said both the administation and school advocates understand the sacrifice some in northeast Towson are being asked to make, but Fisher reterated that the site was "not 100 percent determined," and that the community would be involved on traffic and noise issues — if the park site was chosen.

"I don't want it to be that they're giving up green space so we can have air conditioning," she said. "I don't think that's what's happening."