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Havre de Grace council backs Susquehanna Hose Co. buying new boat

The Susquehanna Hose Co. of Havre de Grace has a myriad of firefighting equipment, from trucks and a boat, pictured on a recent rescue mission.
The Susquehanna Hose Co. of Havre de Grace has a myriad of firefighting equipment, from trucks and a boat, pictured on a recent rescue mission. (Aegis file photo)

The Havre de Grace City Council voted 5-0 Monday in favor of a resolution giving city leaders the authority to allocate up to $300,000 to the Susquehanna Hose Company to assist with the fire company's purchase of a new firefighting and rescue boat.

Council members stressed that Havre de Grace officials will work with the fire company to offset that allocation by obtaining grants, as well as contributions from the state and Baltimore and Cecil counties, since Susquehanna Hose has sent its boat to assist on emergency calls in the neighboring counties.

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The resolution allows Hose Company officials to proceed with the boat project, Council President Bill Martin explained.

"We just wanted to guarantee that the City of Havre de Grace has your back, and we need [the boat]," Martin said.

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Council member Randy Craig was absent Monday.

The funding will be spread out over four fiscal years, with the first allocation of $75,000 made during the 2015-2016 fiscal year. Three more payments of $75,000 each will be made through the 2018-2019 fiscal year, according to the resolution.

The Hose Company and the city will enter a memorandum of understanding regarding the payments, according to the resolution, which was introduced by Council member Stephen Gamatoria, a 36-year member of the Hose Company.

Gamatoria praised the work of the all-volunteer fire company, although he stressed "all of our volunteers are so instrumental in making the city what it is."

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"When the city has the ability to assist, over and beyond what we can do in the normal budget, I think that's really what it's all about," he said.

The city funds will be drawn from its slip user tax fund, which is supported by the 5 percent tax paid by users of boat slips in the Havre de Grace marinas.

The Hose Company must also "make its best efforts" to find grants or donations to offset the city's allocation, according to the resolution. Any city funds that are not spent on the boat will go back to municipal coffers.

Charles Packard, president of the Susquehanna Hose Company, explained after the council meeting that the boat is aging, and it has been used in response to multiple boat accidents and boat fires.

Its on-board pump and hose are used to fight fires on islands and along the banks of waterways, and it would be useful in case of fires in wood-frame structures that have been built along the banks of small creeks and streams around Havre de Grace, Packard said.

Packard said the current boat is not large enough to take on more than one person during a rescue.

He said the new boat would be designed to meet current firefighting and rescue needs, and that the current rescue boat's home, a boat lift in Tydings Park for which the council authorized $4,100 in February of 2013, will be adequate for the new boat.

Packard thanked council members for their support during the public comment portion of Monday's meeting.

He noted the company in recent years has established a program to replace its current apparatus, including fire engines, trucks and boats, over 20 years.

Packard stressed that fire company officials want to avoid taking on any debt to purchase vehicles.

"We just could not establish the funding mechanism to fit it in with the engines and the truck," he said of finding money for the replacement boat.

He told council members that "we certainly appreciate having the assurance that we can go forward."

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