Ruppersberger faults homeland security cuts in visit to fire station

February 24, 2004|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

Pointing to North Point-Edgemere volunteer firefighters as an example of the "first responders" who will suffer from budget cuts proposed by President Bush, Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger stopped by the company's Baltimore County fire station yesterday to criticize the president's 2004-2005 spending plan.

Ruppersberger, a first-term Democrat, said he hopes he and his congressional colleagues can persuade the White House to restore a proposed cut of $1.5 billion in Department of Homeland Security grants that could help volunteer fire companies like North Point-Edgemere replace aging equipment.

"This isn't the time, with the heightened security threats, to be cutting money for our first responders," he said yesterday.

Like most volunteer companies in the county, North Point-Edgemere has not received a federal homeland security grant. But now it could use one more than ever, Ruppersberger said.

The station needs to replace a 23-year-old engine and a nearly 20-year-old fire boat and upgrade breathing apparatus for the confined-space rescue unit.

With donations declining in a community hard-hit by Tropical Storm Isabel, North Point-Edgemere volunteers say they will have a particularly hard time competing for federal grants with fewer available.

The community is supportive of the volunteers' annual fund-raisers, including carnivals, bingo games, chicken dinners and letters requesting donations, said C.O. "Buddy" Staigerwald Jr., president of the North-Point Edgemere Volunteer Fire Department.

But, he said, "when people are living in [Federal Emergency Management Agency] trailers, I just can't go to them and ask for $100 out of their pockets."

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