Are Firefighters Fit? Are Police Plump?

BUDGET WATCH 91 -- Where do all our dollars go?

May 16, 1991|By Elise Armacost | Elise Armacost,Staff writer

County Councilman David G. Boschert wishes Anne Arundel's police andfirefighters were as thin as his patience.

Boschert, D-Crownsville, wants to know what happened to legislation he pushed through the council giving the county personnel officer authority to set up physical agility standards for public safety workers.

The legislation was passed in 1986. No one has been tested yet, County Personnel Director Richard Mayer said during budget hearings yesterday. Annual physical fitness examinations would cost $200,000, and the county does not have the money, he said.

Boschert wants to see County Executive Robert R. Neall include the money in the 1992 supplemental budget, to be presented after the council completes its review of the 1992 operating and capital budgets.

"We've said no compromise on public safety, and if money's the issue we'd darned sight better find it," Boschert said. "It's (Neall's) obligation to the people of this county. If he comes down with it, I'll support it, and I'll get the four votes" needed to approve the budget appropriation.

Boschert said he'd be satisfied with less-frequent physical tests, perhaps once every four years. Reducing the frequency of the tests would make the testing program more affordable, he said.

In 1986, Boschert hoped the first agility tests would be administered in 1988. He said yesterday that he thought county police were to have started testing in October, but there's no sign that they have come up with a plan.

"I've been very patient these past few years. Why hasn't anything been done?" he asked. "We gave them a mission to do, and it sounds like somebody dropped the ball. Here we are four years later and we're still waiting."

As Boschert envisions the tests, they would bedesigned according to age and would measure the fitness needed for aspecific job.

"If a firefighter is required to take people out ofa building and carry them down, we want to make sure they can do that," he said, noting that several fire officials at yesterday's hearing on the fire department budget appeared to be overweight.

A reserve officer in the U.S. Marines, Boschert based the idea forregular physical exams on his military experience, in which personnel must takephysical agility tests until they are 45 years old.

Should Neall fail to include money for the tests in the supplemental budget, Boschert said he'd consider introducing new legislation on the physical tests. "I don't think we need to do that if the executive sticks to hisword not to compromise the public safety," he said.

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