Frederick eyes increase in fire share

40 percent of calls town company makes are in adjoining county

February 29, 2000|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Frederick County should increase its annual contribution to the Mount Airy Volunteer Fire Company, a Frederick County commissioner said during a meeting with town officials and Carroll County commissioners yesterday.

About 40 percent of Mount Airy company's fire and rescue calls are on the Frederick side, but "the funding is not proportionate," said Frederick County Commissioner John Leonard "Lennie" Thompson Jr., a former fire company volunteer in Walkersville.

Mount Airy's Main Street is a dividing line between the two counties. The population on each side is about even, because of annexations on the Frederick side the past few years, said Mayor Gerald R. Johnson, who conducted the annual meeting between the commissioners and town officials.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in yesterday's Carroll County edition of The Sun about contributions to Mount Airy Volunteer Fire Company understated the amount contributed by Carroll County. In the current fiscal year, Carroll County provided about $370,000. The Sun regrets the error.

The fire hall where they met "is right smack dab in the middle of where four counties come together, but Mount Airy is [incorporated] in Carroll County, so it's a Carroll County [fire] company," said Thompson. "But 40 percent of all responses are in Frederick County."

Frederick contributes $17,000 to $19,000 a year, he said.

"And if you go on a population or on a per-call basis, that's a very, very small amount, when you consider the amount the Carroll County commissioners provide. It's fair to say the Carroll County taxpayers are subsidizing the fire and rescue service in Frederick County to some extent."

"I guess the bottom line is, if you drew the line, and said, `We're not covering it any more,' it would cost us considerably more than $17,000 to provide services," Thompson told the Carroll group.

Carroll has been providing more than $80,000, said Douglas Alexander, a former board member of the Mount Airy Volunteer Fire Company.

The money from Frederick began as more of "a goodwill gesture," he said.

Carroll Commissioner Donald I. Dell suggested the two counties split the bill, which amounts to 90 percent of a company's operating expenses.

Officials noted, however, that each county follows a different formula in providing money to its volunteer companies.

Dell, who noted Carroll had a "good-neighbor policy," said, "We've never been at odds over this, but from what I've been told, Carroll County does subsidize Frederick County to some extent. It would be a really nice gesture if you say, `We'll give 45 percent of the operating budget, and Carroll County gives 45 percent.' "

After the meeting, however, Thompson said, "I don't know whether we can come up with half the operating budget."

Other areas discussed by town and county officials included: Annexation policies. Johnson said Mount Airy doesn't have a written agreement with Frederick. Frederick Commissioner Ilona Hogan said that county is putting more such agreements in writing.

Improved communication between the town and the counties. Dell said he has Carroll County memos forwarded to all eight town halls and the towns' council members because "sometimes conflicts get going, and town officials don't know what it's all about."

Hogan described a Colorado town -- split between two counties like Mount Airy -- that decided to form its own county.

Extension of Rising Ridge Road on the Frederick County side to Route 808. Mount Airy Councilman William E. Wagner said this would significantly relieve traffic congestion.

Although county officials agreed to ask for a traffic count from the State Highway Administration, they and staff members said the area's topography might preclude road building.

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