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Reducing Fire Protection in Germantown is Not the Answer to County’s Budget Woes

County Executive Ike Leggett is playing with fire, well at least he’s playing with fire protection in Germantown. Leggett has suggested the elimination of a full-time, full-staffed paramedic engine from the central Germantown fire station on Crystal Rock Drive.

This sort of budget cutting should be unacceptable to a town of over 100,000 residents. Once again, the County Executive has decided that the Germantown area is unworthy of support from his office.

The cuts are a means to the end of making up for the $120 million budget shortfall which has occurred because in the 12 years he’s been the County Executive he’s been unable to attract and keep jobs in the County. As a result, taxpaying residents and businesses have been fleeing to neighboring Northern Virginia.

County leadership decided the best way to improve on 1.1 percent economic growth was with new business regulations and a $15 minimum wage. Now, very few of the educated, motivated workforce in Germantown can’t get jobs in Germantown or the County. Germantown’s working families struggle to afford housing and a long commute to other jurisdictions. How are they rewarded for not packing up and leaving Germantown and Montgomery County for a shorter commute? Why, with a tax increase, of course.

While Leggett’s proposed plan makes cuts to almost all County departments, in an ironic twist the Office of Management and Budget’s budget will increase of $189,374 or 4 percent to $4.9 million. Meanwhile, the cuts to the entire MCFRS budget would only yield just $2.2 million in savings. The Germantown engine would cost just $499,000.

Leggett first proposed the elimination of Fire Engine 729 back in January, and the County Council’s Public Safety Committee unanimously voted to reinstate the $499,000 in funding for the Engine 729’s full-time crew, and it seemed Germantown’s fire protection would remain the same.

But, when Leggett introduced his final FY19 Operating Budget last in late March, the cuts to Engine 729, and Engine 709 in Hyattstown, as well as, a full-time ladder truck in Hillandale were reinstated.

Would such cuts be tolerated in Kensington or Chevy Chase? Would they even be considered for an incorporated area like Gaithersburg or Rockville? The pushback from those communities would be as loud as a fire alarm. Clearly Leggett isn’t expected any dust-up from Germantown, because who will speak up? There is no mayor, no voice of Germantown. By reinstating the cuts, Leggett has shown he doesn’t respect the opinion of our elected representatives on the County Council.

Germantown’s elected Council Representative Craig Rice said he was “disappointed” that the County Executive ignored the recommendations of the Public Safety Committee and ‘tried yet again to deny people adequate fire service in the bustling regions of the UpCounty.”

Germantown’s 100,000-plus residents should be more than disappointed, they should be down right angry. It is time that Montgomery County stop treating Germantown residents like second-class citizens, and bring them into the fold of top-tier municipalities.