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Harford council introduces bill for AEDs in pools, hears from Walmart supporters

Harford County is one step closer to requiring defibrillators in all swimming pools, after the County Council introduced a bill requiring them Tuesday night.

The bill requires that CPR rescue masks, automatic external defibrillators and first-aid kits be provided and maintained at each public, recreational and semi-public pool.

Council President Billy Boniface said he was interested in having the local version of what is known as "Connor's Law," which relates to safety at swimming pools.

The law is being promoted by the parents of Connor Freed, a 5-year-old Anne Arundel County boy, who drowned in a pool in 2005.

An AED was available at the pool where Connor drowned, but no one was able to use it, Boniface said earlier.

Boniface also plans to put more AEDs in county government buildings. He had planned to talk to the county risk management department last month about installing AEDs in more county buildings, which does not require legislation.

He said some county government facilities, such as senior centers, already have AEDs.

Boniface said Thursday he has already talked with risk management about putting them in county buildings, which is happening on an as-needed basis for now.

"We're doing our best in having them installed in as many buildings as possible," he said.

Walmart supporters

Walmart again brought out supporters of the Bel Air store to testify before the council on Tuesday.

Several residents from the immediate area spoke out about the need for a Walmart store there and Harry Hammel, a public relations representative for the store, was at the meeting.

Elizabeth Cox said Walmart is offering to help the county and help neighbors feel safer in that area by improving traffic conditions.

She pointed out MedStar is coming as well and the county should have a more coordinated planning effort.

"Doesn't it make sense to have the county get assistance with their traffic issues that could possibly help in the solution?" she said, in reference to Walmart. "Doesn't it make sense to have everyone, Walmart, MedStar, anyone that's interested in coming into that area, to work as one to assist the county?"

Nimisha Shah, another resident, said she was mostly excited about new jobs and tax dollars.

"You can't lose if there's more tax dollars coming in," she said.

Bill Atkins said he has enjoyed seeing more shopping and development come to Bel Air, which he was reminded of after a recent trip to Baltimore.

"My wife and I went down to the stadium today," he said, in reference to the recent Ravens victory rally. "I felt so good to live in Harford County and said, boy, I'm glad I don't have to live down there."

Atkins said when his family moved to Bel Air, they had to go shopping in Towson or Baltimore, but that has changed.

"I have all the faith in the world on the progress you've made here in Harford County," he said. "Baltimore City hasn't made any progress. It's the same it was when I was a kid and lived there."

Atkins said Walmart fits in with that plan.

"It's just another part of the progress that Harford County has made," he said.

Councilman Jim McMahan said he got a question about the council's failure to send a letter to the State Highway Administration asking for access to be denied to Route 924 for the MedStar Health building.

The council sent such a letter to the SHA regarding Walmart.

McMahan said MedStar's property does not touch Route 924 anywhere and MedStar never applied for that access.

"They are on a feeder road which is an extension to Plum Tree [Road], so that has nothing to do with 924," he said.

Sandy funding

Also at the meeting, the council passed a bill revising the membership requirements of the Local Management Board to add the director of a developmental disabilities organization, private sector members and the possibility of allowing people to act as designees in their stead.

The council approved $1.2 million to fund estimated expenses attributed to Hurricane Sandy and unanticipated weather-related events.

Ryan Burbey, of the Harford County Education Association, again warned the council that times were dire for the county's school system, now that superintendent Robert Tomback and associate superintendent Bill Lawrence were stepping down.

"The future isn't quite as bright as the county's economic lens right now," he said, mentioning "an eminent funding crisis for your schools."

He said schools are losing money in state aid and are facing a budget hole of $20 million.

Burbey added he did not want to see schools close and other serious consequences because of lack of funding and support.

"I need you all to move past this idea of bricks and mortar for schools," he said. "This is definitely serious at this point."

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