Blinking lights urge unnecessary caution

WATCHDOG

April 24, 2007

THE PROBLEM -- Caution lights are still blinking in front of city fire stations that have been closed for years.

THE BACKSTORY -- The firehouses - one at Ostend and Hanover streets, the other at East Fort and Riverside avenues - look standard enough. They have oversized bay doors and flags fluttering outside. Yellow caution lights blink to warn motorists that, at any moment, they might have to stop for a fire engine speeding to a call.

But these two stations have been closed for years. The one on Hanover Street is used by maintenance workers; the one on Fort Avenue is used by paramedic administrators.

Yet the yellow lights continue to operate.

"The light is blinking, flashing, blinking, flashing," complained Joseph Rumenap, who lives in Glen Burnie and often visits his daughter near the Hanover Street station. "I say that this sure as heck is costing the city a lot of money."

Rick Binetti, a Fire Department spokesman, said the city's Department of Transportation maintains the blinking lights and would remove them if requested. "We have not asked to shut them down," Binetti said.

He explained that the administrators at Fort Avenue sometimes respond to major emergencies, and have requested the caution light stay blinking.

As for the workers at the Hanover Street station, Binetti said he was told that the blinking light is usually off but can be activated and turned red from a button inside the building. Watchdog visited several nights last week and saw the yellow light blinking constantly.

Binetti said: "Now we will take a look to figure out how many blinking lights there still are and determine which ones we still need."

WHO CAN FIX THIS -- Deputy Fire Chief Gregory Ward, 410-396-7544.

UPDATE

A gap in a section of fence protecting CSX railroad tracks at the end of South Charles Street remains more than a week after Watchdog first discovered the problem. The South Baltimore Improvement Committee has said it complained to CSX at least three times. The committee warns that the opening is dangerous to children who might wander back there and that it attracts vagrants and drug users looking for a place to hide.

Robert Sullivan, a CSX spokesman, told Watchdog on Friday he would have a response by yesterday. But a secretary said he was out of the office on an emergency and would not be available for comment.

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