Harford firefighters secede from company on Pa. border

September 01, 1994|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,Sun Staff Writer

A modern-day war between the states has resulted in the secession of Harford County volunteer firefighters from a 75-year-old fire company on the Maryland-Pennsylvania border.

The split among the 75 members of the Citizens Volunteer Fire Company, which had firehouses in Fawn Grove, Pa., and Pylesville in Harford County, led to formation of the new Norrisville Volunteer Fire Company. The move was overwhelmingly approved by the Harford County Fire and Ambulance Association in a closed meeting Tuesday night. The Norrisville company will remain at the Pylesville station on Harkins Road that formerly was known as Citizens House No. 2.

Harford County and several former members of the Citizens company filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Harford County Circuit Court to bar the Citizens company from taking any equipment from the Harford County site and placing financial assets in a trust until the split is legally final.

"There won't be any change in service," said Gregory M. Skinner, president of the new Harford company and former president of the Citizens company. "It is important to note that the companies are responding together in a professional manner."

The remaining members of the Citizens company in Fawn Grove are still wondering what happened. "It is my personal view that there were issues that could have been resolved," said Richard J. Price, chairman of the board of the Fawn Grove station. "It was a total surprise."

Tensions had been simmering for several years in the joint fire company, several members said.

"It's like a divorce, with irreconcilable differences," said Ben Kurtz, president of the Harford County Fire and Ambulance Association. "There was a financial part of it."

One issue that caused the split was the difference in funding by the two jurisdictions. Harford County contributed $156,496 to the joint company's operating budget in fiscal 1994. Fawn Grove's municipalities contributed $10,350.

Harford County also approved a one-time capital contribution of $300,000 for reconstruction and renovation of the Harkins Road house.

"Money was an issue," Mr. Price agreed. "But the trustees found that pretty much things were on the up and up."

The Aegis, a Bel Air newspaper, reported that some Citizens members had sought money for an ambulance for the Pylesville station, but several members of the company forced a vote that would have made the purchase implausible.

Currently, the Norrisville station has three fire trucks and a Suburban van. The Fawn Grove station has four fire trucks, two fire chiefs' cars, a Dodge 4-by-4 truck and an ambulance.

The Norrisville station will have an ambulance by the end of the week, Mr. Skinner said. It will be on loan from another Harford County company until the new group can buy its own.

Mr. Price, one of several defendants in the suit, said he couldn't comment on it until he spoke with counsel. "But the citizens of Harford County and Pennsylvania and York County will not suffer," he promised.

Mr. Kurtz agreed. "We're here to help the community," he said. "When you have a job to do, you forget your differences and do it for the people."

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