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News Maryland Baltimore County Towson

Despite reports, Towson Manor Park still a potential firehouse location

State Sen. Jim Brochin of Towson received a call Wednesday evening that he and opponents of a plan to build a new fire station at Towson Manor Park had been hoping for all month.

According to Brochin, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz's legislative lobbyist Yolanda Winkler called to relay news that the park on the corner of Virginia Avenue and East Towsontown Boulevard was no longer a prospective site for the fire station.

The senator representing the 42nd District aimed to confirm that statement with Winkler several times, he said. She did, the senator said, and "the next words out of (Winkler's) mouth were 'Can you call off the rally?' "

Despite those reported assurances, Thursday afternoon's protest on York Road is still going ahead as scheduled, and several county officials have said reports of Towson Manor Park having been officially taken out of consideration as a possible location for a new firehouse were not true.

County spokeswoman Ellen Kobler on Thursday afternoon reiterated the county executive's message from an 11 a.m. press conference, telling the Towson Times "we are actively looking for other sites that might work within the area.

"Towson Manor Park is still on the table, although we're very actively trying to find alternative locations," Kobler said.

County Councilman David Marks, who represents Towson, said Thursday morning that he also had been told in multiple conversations Thursday that the park was still an option.

"They're still doing the analysis (of other potential sites)," Marks said. "It's an accelerated timetable, but (the analysis is) still going on."

Marks said he's doing his "very best in private discussions to find a different location," and he's "not going to rest until these private discussions yield the result of a different site being finalized."

"I don't think we're quite there yet," he said.

Brochin said the confusion with Kamenetz's staffer is the second instance of poor communication since he and the District 42 delegates — Steve Lafferty, Bill Frank and Sue Aumann — were briefed on the plan two weeks ago.

In its original form, which Brochin said was first presented as a "done deal," the county planned to sell the current firehouse and public works property on York Road and Bosley Avenue and use the profits for a new firehouse to be built on the site of Towson Manor Park and air-conditioning at Dumbarton Middle School.

"It's not fair to play with a community like this," Brochin said. "I'm starting to think (Winkler) just said it to see if they could get me to cancel the rally. I don't understand why they're playing these games, and more importantly, why they insist on leaving a public park as an option to put a fire station."

County officials later backtracked and said the plan was not finalized, and in a formal announcement of the plan on Tuesday, said Towson Manor Park was a potential site for the new firehouse.

Kobler said the county "fully realize(s) the value of parks, playgrounds and open space to communities, so we're doing everything possible to come up with another location that meets the needs of the fire department and work out the best overall arrangement for our taxpayers."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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