Time for a truceFrom: John F. McKeown...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Time for a truce

From: John F. McKeown Jr.

Bel Air

Enough is enough! After several weeks of childish bickering, I think the time has come for an agreement between the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company and the July 4th Parade Committee.

As a decorated career fire officer and former volunteer, I know the importance of recognizing the service provided by fire and medical personnel.

However, I also know the responsibility of the fire company to attend community events, while not overwhelming the public with their apparatus.

The Harford County fire chiefs should remember who contributes money to buy the expensive, very pretty, but really seldom used vehicles that they do enjoy riding around on.

Bob Colaianni's (BVFC) statement in The Sun, "Public safety dictated that all equipment, fully staffed, be in the parade" ("Children see red after fire trucks are pulled from Bel Air parade," The Sun, June 21) is a huge false statement.

If public safety is a true concern, equipment and personnel should be pre-positioned around Bel Air, prior to the start of the parade and not restricted to the parade route.

The Bel Air Fire Company is making a big mistake telling its citizens what they will do with equipment purchased with tax dollars (yes, tax dollars) and private contributions. All this should remembered by county residents when fund drives begin for new equipment purchases.

It is time to reach an agreement that is acceptable to the parties involved, but most important, meets the desires of the public.

Support for fire chiefs

From: Joanne Parrott

Harford County Council

While I appreciate the many hours of work the Bel Air Parade Committee contributes to the Fourth of July celebration in Bel Air, your editorial knocking the volunteer fire and ambulance companies as "spoiled kids" is surprising and way off base ("Chiefs ought to remember parade's for the public," Harford County Sun, June 14).

It indicates to me that your knowledge of the volunteer fire and ambulance system is zilch and you do not realize how dependent the citizens of Harford County are on these volunteer men and women, who give of their time to train intensely and to be available for medical and fire emergencies 24 hours a day.

I would suggest to you instead of knocking the volunteer companies in an editorial that you spend some research time and educate the public on what the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company and the other 12 volunteer companies mean to Harford County's quality of life.

First off, a lot of Harford Countians, especially newcomers, think our fire and ambulance companies are "paid professionals" as in Baltimore City. That is a fallacy.

Fact is, our personnel receive the same professional training, but are not paid; therefore they are known as "volunteers."

Fact is, if the volunteer system was converted to a paid system, it would cost the taxpayers of Harford County over $20 million. Our volunteer firefighters and ambulance personnel are highly trained and dedicated and want to continue as a volunteer system.

Fact is, you may not realize this, but this is a bargain for Harford County taxpayers. The county government budget contributes only $2 million annually to be split among 12 companies.

All other funds needed to maintain and to purchase fire engines, hook and ladders, utility trucks, ambulances, fire hoses, ambulance gear (clothing), oxygen tanks, ladders, pagers, radios, stretchers, etc., and all the miscellaneous equipment needed to outfit each piece of fire and ambulance equipment plus maintenance of equipment and buildings is accomplished by individual fire companies through a variety of fund-raisers.

Fact is, raising funds has become a more difficult task for most companies in recent years.

Fact is, I support BVFC's desire to have all their equipment in the parade.

Fact is, I support the Harford County Volunteer Fire Chiefs Association decision for other companies to pull out of the parade, because Bel Air's full complement of equipment isn't welcomed by the July 4th Committee.

Fact is, BVFC is ready and waiting to provide emergency service to 52,227 citizens within an 80-square-mile area, through a defined service area and mutual aid areas to other volunteer companies. Their active membership of 145 includes 95 fire and 50 emergency medical service personnel.

The statistics for the BVFC for the 1991 year are as follows: training for fire rescue, 23,846 hours; EMS, 10,800 hours; special drills and training, 15,000 hours; meetings and clean-ups of main station in Bel Air and substation in Forest Hill, 1,500 hours; fire prevention, 100 hours; plus 1,009 hours defined at miscellaneous.

The preceding does not even include the time the BVFC spent in 1991 responding to 1,014 fire calls and 2,307 EMS calls, which totaled 34,553 hours.

So you see, the BVFC membership is not sitting idle in their commitment to be ready and waiting to serve the public when needed.

And what they do parallels what all the other volunteers and companies do throughout the county.

Dedicated to saving property and lives.

Men and women. Adults and teen-agers. People from all walks of life. Ready to be there 24 hours a day. Leaving their jobs, dinner with their families, sleep in the middle of night, not knowing what they will encounter when they arrive at a fire or ambulance scene. But caring to serve with pride and professionalism.

So in my mind, your editorial is childish and ridiculous.

Fire and ambulance apparatus in the July 4th Parade are as symbolic as the flag and fireworks.

If there are those who think the parade is: Too long? They can leave and beat the traffic. Too much fire and ambulance equipment? They can go buy a soda or cotton candy.

So I think you should rethink your statements in your June 14 editorial.

I would suggest to the BVFC and the fire chiefs association that they provide you with a portable emergency scanner, so while you are at work and play, you will forever be aware, on a daily basis, night and day, how and where our 12 "volunteer" fire and ambulance companies are responding to assist our citizens.

Don't forget sponsors

From: Bob Chance

Susquehannock Environmental Center

Bel Air

Susquehannock appreciates your coverage of our unique environmental scholarship program in cooperation with the Harford County Board of Education and the corporate community ("Students' recycling efforts pay off in 11 scholarships," Harford County Sun, June 14).

In the article, the fundamental component of the program was neglected. Each school has a sponsor from the commercial sector which provides an annual sum of $1,000 for a deserving student pursuing a career in an environmental field.

This year's sponsors were Aberdeen Federal Credit Union (Aberdeen), Klein's (Bel Air), H. Carl Stephen Inc. (C. Milton Wright), Waste Converters (Edgewood), Village Volvo (Fallston), Dixie Construction (Harford Technical), Cello Group (Havre de Grace), Merry-Go-Round (Joppatowne), Harford Sanitation (North Harford), and Pepsi Cola Bottlers of Havre de Grace (Aluminum Transportation).

Without this innovative partnership, the effectiveness of our scholarship program would be severely curtailed.

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