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Havre de Grace fire company request to hold fundraising concert at high school rebuffed

Havre de Grace fire and city officials have been petitioning Harford County Public Schools officials to hold a fundraising concert for the Susquehanna Hose Company at Havre de Grace High School, but they have been rebuffed, according to the fire chief.

Chief Scott Hurst said Wednesday that fire company officials have started looking for venues other than the high school, venues which he expects will be outside Havre de Grace, that can hold the anticipated crowd of 1,000 people.

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The concert, which is scheduled for January 2015, is being put on to raise money to purchase two new command vehicles for the fire company, Hurst explained.

"It's beyond belief to me when you see other things going on in the schools," the chief said.

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Fire company and city officials are also trying to obtain permission to install carbon monoxide detectors in public schools in the city. Their request was turned down three years ago, but local leaders are trying again since the 2012 approval of a state law requiring new and significantly remodeled public school buildings to have carbon monoxide detectors.

"Harford County Public Schools responded directly to the entities involved on both matters based on our current policy and procedures," Jillian Lader, manager of communications for HCPS, stated in an email.

Hurst said the detectors would be installed by the fire company at no charge to the school system.

The detectors must also be installed in Havre de Grace buildings that are new or have been rehabilitated, according to city ordinance.

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"It makes no rhyme or reason why," Havre de Grace Mayor Wayne Dougherty said. "You have a volunteer organization [that] is willing to pay the expense and maintain them."

Carbon monoxide is a gas that is produced when fuels such as coal, oil, natural gas or propane are incompletely burned; the gas cannot be smelled or seen, and people can be sickened or die if they are exposed to it, according to a Consumer Product Safety Commission web page.

"It's not going to be one sick child going to the hospital," Hurst said of carbon monoxide poisoning. "It's going to be 10, 20, 30 [children]."

Dougherty sent a letter to Superintendent Barbara Canavan Tuesday expressing his support for the Hose Company's efforts.

"Nobody's saying, 'Put them in every school in Harford County,'" the mayor said. "We're just talking about Havre de Grace."

The fire company's bid for the concert was rejected because of HCPS policies that prohibit fundraising events in school facilities other than those put on by organizations that are affiliated with the school system or the Harford County Department of Parks and Recreation.

"After careful consideration and review of your letter for this event, Harford County Public Schools has determined that we must deny this request," Canavan wrote in a Sept. 29 letter to Kenneth Beyer Sr., the fire company's immediate past president.

Canavan referred Beyer to HCPS policies and procedures governing the use of facilities for community events.

"Fundraising is prohibited unless organized and planned by a school-affiliated group/organization or a Parks & Recreation sanctioned organization," according to Section IV, Article B, Item 1 of the Use of Public School Facilities procedures.

The sale of any item or service is also prohibited during community events "unless such sale is part of an authorized fundraising effort for the benefit of students, school programs or school-affiliated groups."

Community events that are being put on by organizations affiliated with the school system and parks and recreation receive top priority when reserving space in school facilities, followed by events and activities related to Harford County and the municipalities, Harford Community College, youth groups, nonprofit, community and artistic organizations, religious groups and then commercial and private entities.

The Town of Bel Air has top priority when scheduling an event for the Bel Air High School auditorium, according to the procedures, and HCC has priority for events in the Amoss Performing Arts Center at Harford Technical High School, which is adjacent to the college campus. The Town of Bel Air partially funded a larger than planned auditorium when the new Bel Air High School was opened about five years ago.

Hurst noted the fire company takes part in multiple events on school properties in the city, such as the annual Duck Drop New Year's Eve event at Havre de Grace Middle School, providing lights for high school football games, fundraisers for high school groups such as the band, and responding to emergencies at the schools at all times of the day and night.

He said firefighters responded to Meadowvale Elementary School on the morning of Sept. 29 for a small fire behind a stove in the cafeteria.

Hurst stressed the fire was small and that no one was injured, but students and staff were evacuated from the building.

"We'll continue to do all those things," he said of the services the fire company provides.

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