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Posted at 4:38 PM ET, 10/29/2010

Ambulance fee critics file suit

By Michael Laris

Opponents of a Montgomery County ambulance fee filed a lawsuit Friday to stop what they claim has been an improper use of government resources by county officials who support the fee.

The Montgomery County Volunteer Fire-Rescue Association claims that county officials sent fire-rescue vehicles to early polling sites so staff could hand out materials in favor of the ambulance fee.

Officials have used county e-mail lists for missives in support of the fee.

"Defendants' illegal activities are likely to influence the outcome of the election with respect to County Question A," the suit reads.

County attorney Marc Hansen has rejected the charges of improper “electioneering.”

“The county is entitled to engage in speech supporting and explaining its policies, including speech that advocates support of a ballot measure,” he wrote.

Hansen said the bill passed by the County Council creating the ambulance fee remains "a validly enacted law." The fact that "a mere 5 percent of voters, by signing a referendum petition," got the fee on the Nov. 2 ballot "cannot and does not" repeal "a policy determination made by a majority of the elected representatives of the entire body politic."

By Michael Laris  | October 29, 2010; 4:38 PM ET
Categories:  Maryland  
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Comments

I am not surprised. Montgomery County is so desperate for money they will try anything. Anyone with sense will vote NO to the referendum which makes it sound that fees for ambulances will be paid by insurance companies and medicare and won't cost county taxpayers/residents anything. This is ridiculous. Do you think that insurance companies and medicare will just pick up the tab. Insurance companies and Medicare will RAISE YOUR PREMIUMS. There is no free lunch. We already pay plenty of taxes to Montgomery County for nothing. The County provides less and less services and our property taxes have not decreased by very much, even though our property values have. In case no one noticed, when property values were reassessed a couple of years ago, all of the values of the houses went down and all of the land values went up, keeping the assessments at exactly the same levels as before-- a rather sneaky maneuver of the assessors to counter the appeals process.

So, don't believe 99% of what the county tells you. And again,if you have any common sense you will vote NO to the question about ambulance fees.

Posted by: gm2525 | October 29, 2010 8:16 PM | Report abuse

My name is Mark Nelson, I am a 25 year fire fighter in Montgomery County, first starting as a volunteer at Laytonsville (now life member), and then being hired by Montgomery County in August of 1990 and still working. The specific sentence I would like to comment on is this one.... "The Montgomery County Volunteer Fire-Rescue Association (MCVFRA) claims that county officials sent fire-rescue vehicles to early polling sites so staff could hand out materials in favor of the ambulance fee."

Other media outlets have published similar articles. My issue is this. Eric Bernard, the Presidient of the MCVFRA is a County Employee who receives a full County Salary ($100,000+ per year), Benefits, Take home Vehicle, etc. There are pictures of him dropping off signatures in his County Uniform to get Question A put on the ballot. I find this to be hipocritical.

"Active qualified volunteers" in this county recieve $600 per year for being a "volunteer". I have no problems with volunteers, but if they are recieving an "annual paycheck" distributed from County Govt. funds, does that not make them County Employees?? They have a Union which represents them, not sure I understand why labor representation is needed for people doing something for free. When I was an active volunteer, I did not want any compensation. I started to get paid when I got hired as a career fire fighter. I hear there is somewhere between 800-1000 active volunteers currently. $600 times the number of active volunteers over the next few years does not sound too "budget friendly" considering the current state of Montgomery County's budget.

I am also wondering and have yet to see an answer to the question... "Who is paying for this?" Is this fight being paid for with community donated funds? Some friends of mine who are volunteers tell me that this is the case. I think that is wrong!

Posted by: firemusician | October 31, 2010 6:02 PM | Report abuse

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