Upshot of melee: No carnival for Owings Mills firehouse


The president of the Owings Mills Volunteer Fire Company says he has frozen the firehouse's spending and is scrambling for a way to raise cash after a melee at last year's fund-raising carnival led to the cancellation of the event for this year.

Police, pointing to the strain on manpower caused when an hour-and-a-half-long fracas broke out at last year's carnival at the Owings Mills Metro station parking lot, recommended to the Maryland Transit Administration that a permit for this year's event be denied. An MTA spokesman said the agency agreed with the recommendation, and fire company officials say they have been unable to find another location.

The annual carnival is a major fund-raiser for the fire company, typically earning $50,000 over a few days. Now the president of the company said he is searching for a way to make up those funds.

"It's very difficult to make up that much in a few days as you would in a carnival," said Harry Wallett, president of the Owings Mills volunteer company. "We're trying to come up with other options, but we haven't come up with any."

Capt. Charles Rapp, commander of the Baltimore County Police Department's Franklin precinct, said the melee last June 12, a Saturday night, required calling in officers from two precincts and the department's K-9 unit to get the crowd under control. The fire company also had hired eight off-duty county police officers for security.

"A lot of small fights initially created more disturbances, and there were families trying to get out of there. It became a crowd-control problem," Rapp said.

Normally, on a Saturday night, Rapp said, 22 officers would be on duty at the Franklin precinct.

"If you have to put that many [officers] in one location at one time, other calls don't stop coming in," Rapp said.

Caught off guard

Next week would have marked the carnival's 73rd year, and the 10th year in the Metro parking lot, Wallett said. He said he was caught off guard by the police position, but can see why police are concerned.

"We're upset - and we can understand where they're coming from," Wallett said.

Of the company's $400,000 budget, about $160,000 comes from the county. The rest is made up through donations and fund-raisers such as birthday parties at the station, "Fill the Boot" donations and a campaign in September in which letters are sent out to the community.

Wallett said he has been keeping the company's spending at a minimum, paying for only the necessities, which include a mortgage on the seven-year-old firehouse and payments on a ladder truck the company bought last year.

But he said he hoped to lift the spending freeze in October, after the company gets its money from the county.

Other options

Rapp said the county Police Department would support the carnival if it moved. If the carnival was held away from the Metro station, Rapp said, "fewer teens would be able to get there. At a rural site, they'd have to be accompanied by people who could drive, and hopefully their parents."

But Wallett said there is no other available space in Owings Mills. After considering other suggestions from the Police Department, including shutting down earlier in the evening, Wallett said he realized that the carnival just would not happen this year.

But he said he would like to find a location, perhaps on private property, to hold the carnival next year.

"I'm hoping this is just a little snag," he said.

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