Monday, March 23, 2009

This Time, It's Personal...

I was pleased last week that we were able to open a brand new fire station – for the first time in nearly thirty years -- serving a new area in our County.

When the County opened Station 29 in downtown Germantown in 1981, it served a community of only about 20,000 people. Germantown now has about 86,000 residents -- and until last week, it still had just one fire station. With the opening of Station 22, we incorporated the history of the first Station 22 (which was on Bradley Blvd. before it closed in 1978) with the newness of our community, to increase the availability of critical public safety assets for that community.

This one is actually personal for me. While my home is only two miles from town center in Germantown, there are no hydrants in my neighborhood. And as I witnessed, there can be devastating consequences when the fire and rescue service does not have the right tools to do its job.

In February 2002, my neighbor’s home caught fire, and I stood with them on my front yard and watched their home burn to the ground. Now, there were lots of reasons that this happened on this particular day, but one of the most significant was lack of access to appropriate public safety resources. This should never be the case in our county.

Unfortunately, the story gets worse. Station 22 was initially approved by the County Council in 1999 and could have been in position to address community needs much sooner. But it wasn't -- and it wasn’t because of a lack of resources. We had the money, but we didn't have an efficient and effective process in place to get it spent and begin work. So I'm pleased that we've been able to get the logjam removed. In fact, we're now on track to have a second new station open next year in East Germantown, and in coming years, we're converting the interim station that we located in Clarksburg into a full station. We're also moving ahead with a critically needed new police station in Gaithersburg.

Public safety assets aren’t as high profile as some other projects, but I can’t think of anything that is more important for our residents. I’m glad we’re making some progress.

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