The high numbers of drivers killed on Harford County roads means the county's safety agencies will have to work closer together, Sheriff Jesse Bane told members and guests of the Darlington Volunteer Fire Company at its annual banquet Saturday night.
After previously being ranked the fifth in the state for the number of traffic fatalities, Bane said the January statistics show Harford is now ranked fourth.
He mentioned the fatal motorcycle crash that took place earlier that day on Route 440, and said the man killed was the father of a deputy. The Sheriff's Office re-routed the deputy so he would not have to respond to his father's fatal accident, Bane said.
Bane thanked the fire company for its cooperation with the Sheriff's Office.
"We are out there working together on a lot of different things. Unfortunately, as time goes on, we are going to be working closer together on traffic," he said. "We have a very low crime rate; it continues to fall... The thing where we are really hurting is traffic. That is the biggest complaint from everyone in the county."
"The Sheriff's Office is going to be putting some initiatives in place to try to deal with this," he added.
Harford had 23 fatalities on its highways in 2011, 10 of them on roads in the northern half of the county. Counting Saturday's motorcycle accident, there have been four fatalities recorded so far in 2012.
Jerry Scarborough, a veteran Darlington firefighter who was one of the emcees for Saturday night's banquet, also said three recent accidents that involved the fire company's family members inspired him to write a poem.
"After one horrible accident, I started writing 'Leave It At the Door,'" he said.
The poem encourages first responders to stay strong even while responding to incidents with which they had personal connections.
"As we say in the fire company, leave your feelings at the door. But when you work on a loved one, your heart says so much more," Scarborough said in his poem. "God gave you the ability; the reward is in heaven above."
Jim Terrell, another emcee, suggested firefighters and EMS responders should get more recognition.
He noted that if it was not for emergency responders, "there would be dead people everywhere."
"Every time someone in Harford County requests a fire or ambulance, they get one, every time. And 99.9 percent of the time, they get it professionally, quickly and easily," he said.
Terrell compared the statistic with that of a professional ballplayer who has a high batting average and gets paid millions of dollars.
"We are batting almost 1,000, for free," he said. "Strange priorities, right?"
As usual, plenty of awards and recognitions were also given out during the night to top responders and those who work diligently behind the scenes at Darlington's fire company.
Maryland Sen. Barry Glassman and County Councilman Chad Shrodes were on hand to present awards from their respective governing bodies, as was a representative from County Executive David Craig's office.
The firefighter of the year was Spencer Tolliver, who was also the fourth top responder in fire operations.
Chief Anthony Welman said Tolliver is always on hand to help, doing many tasks, such as cleaning up around the firehouse, even when it does not seem necessary.
"If you called him at two o'clock, four, five in the morning, whatever it may be, he always helped you," Welman said.
The EMS responder of the year was Rob Patrylak.
The administrative person of the year was Mary Hickman. Administrative Captain Connie Weissert said Hickman can always be found doing work and knows everything about the company's kitchen.
"She just quietly goes about her business, doing the best job possible in the kitchen," Weissert said.
The Jim Warner Award, named after a former company treasurer, went to First Vice President Donald Thomas, who recently retired from duty.
Shrodes told Thomas: "I hope other folks in this company look up to you, and I know they will."
Shrodes said he wanted to thank everyone in all the fire companies.
"You save the taxpayers so much money," he said.
Glassman also said Thomas has been involved in other firefighter associations.
"I thank you for the countless hours you put in," Glassman told him. "I don't think a lot of folks know how much you do, but I do, and God bless you."
The fire company's year was memorable for helping Port Deposit deal with flooding after Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, holding a ceremony for its new Sept. 11 memorial and handling events like the new Zombie Run.
Welman said the company placed its rescue truck in full capacity by helping Port Deposit for three days.
"I wish continued success for 2012," he said.
EMS Chief Jason Gullion also said: "This past year was definitely a challenge."
Gullion said the company reduced its average response time to 3.5 minutes and dropped its "no-shows" to "almost nothing."
Michael Vincent added: "We were lucky in such a bad economy to sell the old Dublin firehouse."
Weissert said the most memorable event was the9/11memorial dedication in front of the firehouse.
"The event was something the company felt strongly about, to honor our heroes who lost their lives on that day," she said.
Weissert also agreed the most important event of last year was the weather.
She noted the company kitchen served three meals for three days to 60 firefighters, deputies and anyone in the company who did not have electricity at their homes.
"It was very moving to see everyone in the company working together as one," she said.
Service milestones honored
President Ralph Borden handed out pins to John Bosley for five years of service; Angie Gullion, Michael Vincent and Rhonda White for 10 years of service; Larry Lee, Michael Harkins and Edna Reeves for at least 20 years of service; and Donald Cassett for 55 years of service.
Borden mentioned that members of the Ladies' Auxiliary were not recognized for the service award until more recently.
"Many of these folks, like [Reeves], served for a lot more than they are getting credit for," he said.
Glassman said he grew up in the fire companies at Level and Darlington, and made special mention of the women who served there.
A likely county executive candidate in 2014, Glassman had been teased earlier by the emcees for holding a ladies' luncheon with women from the community.
"I know how much work they do to build up these fire companies and keep our churches going," he said. "These are the kinds of ladies I like to recognize, and God bless you."
Award sponsors Darlington Lions Club, Professional Associates and Tidewater Promotions were also recognized with certificates. Wawa was also recognized with a certificate for helping serve the emergency responders.
The Darlington Lions Club also presented the fire company with a $500 check.
The top fire responders were: Jerry Scarborough with 301 calls; George Rockey with 256 calls; Rhonda White with 242 calls; Spencer Tolliver and Michael Nelson (tied) with 210 calls; John Singleton with 201 calls; Arnie Hitchock with 193 calls; John Bosley with 175 calls; Raymond Evans with 161 calls; Chip Wieman with 160 calls; and Robert Nelson with 154 calls.
The top EMS responders were: Carolyn Phillips with 169 calls; R. Donald Thomas with 149 calls; Shirley Thompson with 122 calls; Edna Reeves with 114 calls; J. Alan Thompson with 95 calls; Jason Gullion with 78 calls; Linda Thomas with 77 calls; Raymond Evans with 75 calls; Rhonda White with 64 calls; and Vanessa Burns with 57 calls.
The top administrative responders were: Edna Reeves with 738.5 total hours; Connie Weissert with 419 hours; Diane Jones with 350 hours; Mary Hickman with 334.5 hours; Carolyn Phillips with 283 hours; Larry Lee with 265 hours; Tom Taylor with 249 hours; Amy DuBree with 237.5 hours; Donald Cassett with 228.5 hours; Shirley Thompson with 202 hours.