President Addivinola's Open Letter to County Citizens
To My Fellow Anne Arundel County Citizens,
As President of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1563, I represent over 800 professional fire fighters serving Anne Arundel County. As such, I am duty bound to set the record straight on County Executive Schuh’s recent claims that he is a steward of public safety in our County. Steve Schuh’s claims of “commitment to public safety improvements” are false, and we are facing a public safety crisis.
Schuh claims he has sought to bring “real change in public safety to Anne Arundel County.” This is false. He has time and again put petty politics ahead of public safety, most notably with a return of the SAFER Grant, where he returned over $7 million of federal grant money for 52 desperately needed fire fighters after he lost at arbitration.
Schuh says county public safety professionals are no longer underpaid compared to surrounding jurisdictions. This is also untrue. Anne Arundel County Professional Fire Fighters remain underpaid. Indeed, for the first 12 years of their employment with the county, Anne Arundel Fire Fighters are the lowest paid of any surrounding jurisdiction and they don’t hit the area average until 17 years of service. This is extremely detrimental to our county, as it encourages trained, seasoned fire fighters to seek employment opportunities outside of the county to gain pay parity.
Schuh takes credit for funding six projects that were in the budget pipeline since before he took office. Lake Shore, Galesville, Pasadena, Herald Harbor, Harmans, and Glen Burnie were all budgeted for by County Executive Laura Neuman.
Schuh goes as far as taking credit for a public safety property tax credit which he vehemently opposed! You’ll remember that Governor Larry Hogan paved the way for the tax credit, which is one of the reasons Governor Larry Hogan won our endorsement unanimously, only to have Steve Schuh fight against it.
Schuh further claims he “funded positions to put more public safety professionals on our streets.” This is also false. Schuh’s claims of adding 14 additional fire fighters is inaccurate as he merely reassigned communications staff to the field and didn’t add to overall staffing numbers. Indeed, he has only added FOUR 24-hour positions during his administration which does nothing when compared to staffing losses from attrition to surrounding jurisdictions or retirement. This leads us to the #1 reason we cannot support Schuh- his genuine lack of interest for our public safety staffing.
Several neighborhoods in our County do not have access to adequate public safety staffing resulting in TWO OR LESS fire fighters riding out on the fire engine or ladder truck to protect your family and property in an emergency. The National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) recommends 4 fire fighters responding on the first truck arriving to an incident (NFPA 1710).
Why are our first responding units staffed at half the national standard? What can these inadequately staffed units reasonably be expected to accomplish when they arrive at your family’s home? What additional dangers are the half-staffed fire fighter team exposed to while protecting your family and home? These are all questions that we Anne Arundel County citizens must ask ourselves.
We assume our tax dollars provide us with a strong safety net protecting our family, our home, and our property. In exchange for our tax dollars, investment of personal resources to protect our homes, and having a family emergency plan, we expect that a call to 911 will result in an adequately staffed team of first responders imminently arriving to protect our family and home. And we most certainly expect our fire fighters are staffed at a level to mitigate risk and protect their health and safety.
South County and some North County area (Ferndale, Glen Burnie, and Pasadena) tax payers are much more likely to have half of the recommended number of professional fire fighters responding to your call.
In South County, all stations have only 2 fire fighters guaranteed on duty at any given time to be dispatched to a fire emergency. Ferndale in North County has ZERO professional fire fighters to dispatch in the event of a fire emergency and Schuh has eliminated ladder truck staffing at both Severna Park and Glen Burnie. What does this mean? If you live in Deale and call 911 to report a house fire, you will have 2 fire fighters arriving. Once they arrive, they can assess the situation and call in other available resources to help. This means the two-person crew from the neighboring station must be dispatched to the Deale area. If you’re the second phone call in Deale for another emergency, it will take that much longer for a crew to reach your emergency. This is a scary thought for our citizens, and one we as tax payers don’t ever really research to this detail.
I urge you to consider our county’s public safety, and that of your family, when you vote in the upcoming election.
Yours in Service,