It seems that after being on the chopping block, and off the chopping block, and then back on the chopping block again, the two UpCounty fire engines have been now removed from the chopping block — for one year at least.
Germantown Pulse has received confirmation that the proposed cuts to Germantown Fire Station 29 and Hyattstown Fire Station 709 have been fully restored as part of the Fiscal Year 2019 Operating Budget.
“I’m so happy working collaboratively with my colleagues including chair of the Public Safety committee Marc Elrich and members Tom Hucker and Sidney Katz, we were able to prioritize restoration of the Germantown and Hyattstown station in this year‘s budget,” District 2 Councilmember Craig Rice told the Germantown Pulse. “This was truly about making sure that we did not reduce life-saving personnel or apparatus that would have increased response times and jeopardized the safety and well-being of our residents.”
It was learned yesterday that the cuts were being considered, as the County Council worked to pare down the $21.6 million Reconciliation List, which is the list of items that the Council’s sub-committees deem worthy of funding. Items on the Reconciliation List were not funded in the original $5.56 billion operating budget transmitted from County Executive Ike Leggett’s office. Included on the list was $6.7 million in additional funding for MCFRS personnel and apparatus in the Hyattstown and Germantown fire stations.
“The County Council budget reflects our strong commitment to public safety and support for every community in our great county. As Council President, I pushed hard to reprioritize expenditures to ensure there will be no cuts to MCFRS, and I thank my colleagues for their support,” said Hans Riemer, who is an At-Large member of the County Council.
The elimination of Paramedic Engine 729 would have left Germantown’s 100,000 residents with just two full-time, round-the-clock, professionally staffed fire engines. The elimination of Engine 709 in Hyattstown would have saved the County $2.5 million but increased response times for the engine’s first-due areas in the far western and northern areas of the County from 6- to 8-minutes to 10- to 12-minutes.
The budget, which is Leggett’s last as County Executive, contains an overall two percent increase of the Fiscal Year 2018 Operating Budget. The County’s new fiscal year begins July 1, 2018.
Leggett released a statement regarding the County Council’s tentative FY19 Operating Budget reading in part, “I appreciate the hard work and leadership the Council demonstrated on the FY 19 Operating Budget. The Council approved virtually all of what was initially recommended, including full funding for Montgomery County Public Schools — our shared top priority. I am concerned, however, that the Council has increased ongoing expenditures by $14 million over and above my recommended budget.”
The County Council is expected to formally adopt on the full operating budget at its meeting next Thursday, May 24.
Note: County Executive Leggett's statement was added as soon as it was made available at 2:50 pm about 35 minutes after the story was initially posted.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.