Fire companies need community’s support
Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Service Association (CCVESA) held a public forum for county commissioner candidates on Sept. 19. The forum centered on support for the 14 volunteer fire companies in Carroll, including the ever-increasing need for career personnel. I’d like to thank CCVESA for taking a proactive approach to an issue that no longer can be viewed as years away.
As a candidate, forums bring with them some trepidation and nervousness. Even with meticulous preparation and research, most participants end up saying something they wished they had worded differently. For instance, at the end of the CCVESA forum, I mentioned the pay-as-you-throw pilot trash program in New Windsor had been delayed. While this is what I knew to be true at the time, turns out it is on track to begin in November.
A beneficial aspect of forums is the additional understanding one often gains about a subject. Admittedly, I’m a lay person when it comes the operations of our volunteer fire companies. I knew the county provides CCVESA with funding each year which is distributed among the fire companies. These funds, however, provide only a fraction of the cost of operations, with much of the rest covered by fundraisers and volunteer hours.
I did not know, until recently, much about LOSAP which is a monthly retirement benefit offered to eligible volunteers, nor a state income tax break for volunteers who put in a certain number of hours in a given year. Although I have volunteered for a myriad of organizations during my 30 years in Carroll, I’ve never volunteered for my local fire company. I am not sure why, but perhaps partly because it wasn’t a culture I was raised in and wasn’t sure if I’d fit in. I also thought the time requirement was more than I could give during the years of raising a family and commuting out of the county. I have since learned there are many opportunities for volunteering, whether you have many hours to give or only a few, and regardless of your experience.
No matter how Carroll’s emergency services change in the future, our volunteer companies want to remain a vibrant part of our communities and will need continued community support to do so. While volunteering is its own reward, I encourage everyone to check out the additional benefits of volunteering with a volunteer fire company and see if it’s for you.
The writer is a Democratic candidate for county commissioner representing District 3.
Helicopter rides at FallFest an unwelcome addition
On Saturday, Sept. 29, my family visited the Westminster FallFest, as we have done for many years. This year was a notable exception. Helicopter rides were being offered where, once every 5 minutes, the helicopter flew no more than a couple hundred feet over the main walkway filled with hundreds of festival attendees. We all thought this new attraction was an obnoxious, reckless and an unwelcome addition to the festivities.
This was more than just a noise nuisance. Having such a machine repeatedly “buzz” fair-goers in such a crowded location presented a small but potential safety risk. In particular, a malfunction at such a low altitude, no matter how unlikely, could have critically injured or killed a number of fair-goers. Though spectator deaths at air shows are also exceeding rare, at least the public is kept at a safe distance from the aircraft. The only time I want to see a helicopter low over my head is if it's doing an emergency medical evacuation. I'm surprised the FAA allowed this at FallFest. If folks want a helicopter sightseeing flight, the Westminster airport is just a couple miles down the road from FallFest.