Firefighters aren't just being greedy
I am a Baltimore County firefighter and my wife is a Howard County firefighter. We are residents of Howard County. I am compelled to respond to your Nov. 29 editorial in The Sun for Howard ("Playing with fire") concerning fire department staffing in Howard County.
I must disagree with The Sun's position that this was poor timing on Director James Heller's part to ask for more personnel in these hard budget times. The Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue is funded by a separate fire tax which is not affected by state and federal funding cuts.
The fire tax rate was increased this past year to allow the department to hire more personnel. I believe County Executive Charles I. Ecker authorized the hiring of these additional firefighters but so far this has not occurred. Have the citizens of Howard County seen an increase in fire protection to go along with the rate increase?
Are they aware that there are only a few areas that are exclusively protected by Howard County units? If you live in Baltimore County and have a house fire, you are guaranteed to have at least 22 people respond to your call. If I had a fire in my Howard County home, I might get 16 people if the battalion chief requests additional equipment.
If you don't think those six additional people make a difference at a working fire, you obviously don't understand our job very well. The position taken by The Sun shows little understanding and no research into the funding and financial status of the Department of Fire and Rescue.
It is well documented by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the National Fire Protection Agency and the International Association of Firefighters that the lower the number of personnel fighting the fire, the higher probability of injury to personnel.
The only reasons there hasn't been a serious firefighter casualty in Howard County are because they have highly resourceful and dedicated people and because they have been incredibly lucky. I do not want to have to tell my children that the reason Mom doesn't come home anymore is because the politicians were afraid to raise the tax rate one or two pennies.
tTC A part of our job is to take calculated risks to protect the lives and property of our citizens. The amount of help you have at an incident dictates the number of the risks you can take. If you do not have enough people, you may not be able to help those citizens who need it most.
When one becomes a firefighter, he or she realizes there are inherent dangers that come with the job. Howard County firefighters are not being greedy. They are asking for enough people to be able to do their job safely for them and efficiently for those they are sworn to protect.
David J. Angelo
Is Columbia violating its own covenants?
It is time Columbia got a new team to replace the team of Howard Research & Development-Columbia Association. Why do I include HRD? Study the action between it and its child, the Columbia Association. Who else would pay $1 million for a few acres of contaminated land?
It all started 30 years ago when HRD, a child of the Rouse Co., purchased nearly 14,000 acres, obtained special zoning from Howard County and placed covenants on the land. The purpose of the covenants, placed on each lot that was subdivided for development, was to create a controlling or governing organization (Columbia Association) and to raise funds by placing a lien on each lot.
The covenants were legally fixed by the courts to each parcel of land and recorded with the deed. These covenants form a contract between the property owner and CA, a private organization. Being such, it would be a violation of the Constitution of the United States or the state of Maryland to pass a law or ordinance that would interfere with the compliance of that contract. But that has happened twice to these covenants, in 1978 and again in 1990.
Article V of the Covenants spells out how HRD turns over by deed the non-residental areas to CA for community facilities. These facilities, built by CA and financed by the lien paid by the property owners, are restricted to the right of enjoyment by the property owners and residents. The covenants make one exception, to school children.
HRD and CA working together have been in violation of these covenants from Day One. In 1964, HRD leased 289 acres from Muriel Carroll under an agreement to purchase from her estate after her death. Ms. Carroll died in 1988. HRD received a deed to this property in 1989 and CA received a deed to the areas designated for community facilities in April 1990.