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Gordon: We can’t keep waiting till next year to fund public safety in Carroll County | COMMENTARY

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different results. While Albert Einstein is attributed by some, regardless of who originally made the statement the concept behind it is a realistic one. Whether in one’s personal life with a desire to improve by exercise or overall better choices, or even in the function of our governments local, county, state, or federal, sometimes there is a lot of insanity going around.

Living in Carroll County it’s easy see the numerous positives around us. There is nothing wrong with seeing the best in things; however there is always room for improvement and innovation. As a county we have faced challenges or perhaps growing pains over our 184-year history; we must continue to mature and adapt to meet the needs of those who live here.

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A topic being discussed during the budget season is again the compensation of the Sheriff’s Office and the firefighters and first responders.

For too long our elected have been punting the political football in relationship to this topic. There appears to be more interest in a punting game than running to the goalpost and solving the issue. Like all good sporting events there is competition and in regards to our Sheriff’s Office and firefighters this is not any different.

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In 2010 the county Sheriff’s Office took over all primary law enforcement functions for the county and while a positive for the residents, there were concerns and issues that were not addressed fully at the time. The main areas of concern were compensation and disability coverage.

As a candidate in the 2018 County Commissioners race in District 3, I was endorsed by Carroll County FOP Lodge 20. I listened and understood their concerns not only in regards to compensation, but also concerning their disability coverage which today is not at the 66-2/3% which is the industry standard. They are currently receiving 35% coverage for disability. To put this in perspective most jobs offer this level of coverage and the average member of our community is not typically involved in professions where they must manage this level of risk.

As the public is well aware, politicians make promises that they either can’t keep or in some cases never intended to. When I received the endorsement of Carroll County FOP Lodge 20 I made them one simple promise that if elected I would have kept daily. That promise was from day one I would champion for our law enforcement to receive proper disability coverage and better compensation. I would also bring this issue up consistently until it was properly addressed in a timely manner and not punted downfield.

Like our law enforcement, our firefighters and first responders are also in a situation of growing pains in the county. The county has created a paid fire service which will now compete with surrounding counties to fill positions. We do not want to be a training ground and lose the numerous men and women who bravely protect our community. At the same time we also must appreciate the many brave and giving volunteers in our county who have done the heavy lifting. Their selflessness and commitment has kept our county safe for generations.

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County government is in its annual budget discussions and once again the matters of compensation for both the Sheriff’s Office and firefighters is a hot topic of concern. For some, the idea of a safety tax or fee is the quick and easy solution to this burning challenge.

While the county has contended with a pandemic and the economic concerns for more than a year, it is not over yet. The members of our community have to deal with these concerns, but also with the inflating prices in the economy. A tax or fee would no doubt hurt people in our county. While a certain amount might seem trivial to one household it could be an issue to another.

The concerns of the Sheriff’s Office and our firefighters are not new ones, but seem to be left sitting on the bench until the clock is running down yet again. Perhaps this issue will be left for the next Board of Commissioners, which would be an unfortunate pass.

The best option is for a top down assessment of county government finances beginning now while also increasing the funding of these groups this year. The county’s No. 1 priority is the public safety of those who live here. We cannot wait again till next year’s budget season to search the couch cushions to potentially fund the needs of our community.

Tom Gordon writes from Westminster. He writes every other Saturday. Email him at tgordonwrites@gmail.com.

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