Harford signs bill for firefighters

HARFORD DIGEST

December 02, 2007

In an effort to retain its volunteer firefighters, Harford County has lowered the age of eligibility for a monthly benefit by five years to age 55.

County officials signed into law last week a bill that offers $300 a month to fire service personnel with 25 years of continuous service at age 55.

"This is a valuable retention tool," said Dave Williams, spokesman for Harford County Volunteer Fire and Emergency Services. "It is an incentive to stay in the service."

As middle-aged volunteers juggle demands of family and career, they are often forced to limit or relinquish hours they can spend in the fire service. But at that point, many have given 15 or more years to their local companies. The benefit might help more stay, Williams said.

"Even if they are not a riding member, they can still be active in the services in many ways," Williams said. "Those 25 years of active service are based on responses, hours of training, meetings attended and many collateral duties."

Volunteers must earn 50 points annually in various categories to be considered active in the fire service. Those duties can include emergency responses, administrative work, fire prevention classes and equipment maintenance.

"This may not help as much with recruitment because most recruits come in at [age] 16 through 21 and are not thinking about 55," Williams said. "But for many others, a benefit for the rest of your life is an excellent motivator."

Williams, with 20 years as a volunteer firefighter, is an example of how the benefit will help with retention, he said.

"All I need is another five years and my age falls right in line with the requirement," he said.

At the death of an eligible volunteer, half the benefit amount would be transferred to a surviving spouse, according to the new ordinance.

Bel Air to hold Christmas parade

Bel Air will officially open the holiday season with its 18th annual Christmas parade at 3:30 p.m. today.

Because of road construction on Main Street, the parade will have a new route on Hickory Avenue. The parade will start at Courtland Street and Hickory Avenue, continue along Hickory Avenue to Lee Way past Shamrock Park, and end at Pennsylvania Avenue and Lee Way.

Post-parade activities scheduled at Shamrock Park include a bonfire, hot chocolate service and appearances by Santa and Mrs. Claus, the Grinch and the Cat in the Hat.

Awards will be presented for "Best Band" and first-, second- and third-place winners for parade participants.

Information: 410-638-4540.

Portion of road to close tomorrow

The Harford County Department of Public Works, Bureau of Construction Management, has announced that a section of Harmony Church Road will be closed to through traffic on or about tomorrow.

The section that will be affected is between Route 136 and Nobles Mill Road. The road is expected to be closed for about six weeks for stream bank stabilization.

Information: 410-638-3561.

County adds virtual tour to Web site

The Harford County Office of Economic Development has added a virtual tour of the county to its Web site, www.harfordmd.com.

The 14-minute video highlights many of Harford's attractions, such as Ladew Topiary Gardens, the Concord Point Lighthouse, parks, museums and other points of interest. The link for the tour can be found at the bottom of the Web site's home page.

"The virtual tour was designed to accommodate visitors to Harford County who are looking for something exciting to do, as well as for our citizens who might find an attraction they had not discovered yet," said Wini Roche, Harford County's tourism manager.

The virtual tour will be used to market Harford County at trade shows nationally and target group tours and meeting planners.

Information: 410-638-3327.

Housing agency gets state award

The Home Partnership Inc. of Harford County recently was presented with a 2007 Commitment to Excellence Award by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.

The awards were presented at the Governor's Housing Conference on Wednesday in Baltimore.

Home Partnership Inc. is a nonprofit affordable housing organization that recently signed up as a partner under DHCD's Community Partners Incentive Program. As part of the program, Home Partnership will provide up to $15,000 to eligible homebuyers who are getting a Maryland Mortgage Program loan, which DHCD will match up to $5,000.

Ornaments portray local landmarks

The Bel Air Historic Preservation Commission is selling Christmas ornaments depicting local landmarks.

The ornaments feature the Proctor House at 54 E. Gordon Street. Also available are the Bel Air Colored High School, Bel Air Academy & Graded School and Ropewalk Tavern ornaments.

All ornaments are $10 plus tax and are available at Bel Air Town Hall, 39 Hickory Ave.; Bel Air Planning Department, 705 Churchville Road; Preston's Stationery, 319 S. Main St.; Tea by Two, 814 S. Main St.; Bel Air Library, 100 Pennsylvania Ave.; the Historic Hays House, 324 Kenmore Ave.; and Bel Air Visitors Center, 37 N. Main St.

Information: 410-638-4540.

Library fundraiser nets $103,780

The Harford County Public Library Foundation recently held its annual fundraiser gala, raising $103,780 from event sponsors, tickets and live and silent auctions.

The foundation's purpose is to augment the library's financial resources to enhance programs and services for all ages.

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