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Fire Department Update

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by Gerry Kiernan

I wrote an article in the September, 1998 issue of The TownCrier regarding the Riverdale Volunteer Fire Department (RVFD) request for funding and the town's condition that financial disclosure must precede any discussion of assigning town funds.

In mid-February the RVFD submitted a petition which would require the town government to allocate about $50,000 to the RVFD to be paid annually no later than October 1. The RVFD would have no financial reporting responsibility as part of the allocation.

At the March 1 legislative session, the Council voted to reject the petition, based on a legal opinion submitted by the town attorney, as the requested charter amendment would violate Maryland law. No charter provision can limit the power of the Mayor and Council of any municipality to establish the annual budget.

A major stumbling block in earlier discussions with the RVFD was its refusal to disclose financial information as part of the request for funding. In the Prince George's Journal of March 5, Fire Chief Ryan is quoted as stating that the RVFD is a private corporation and does not have to disclose its books.

Also at the March 1 meeting it was decided that the Council would consider an advisory question to be placed on the May ballot on the issue of support for the RVFD. The decision on whether to support this advisory question will have to be made at the April meeting. Residents who wish to offer their opinion on this matter may wish to consider the following information.

The RVFD does not provide fire and ambulance service to the entire town. The Hyattsville, Bladensburg and Riverdale Heights

Volunteer Fire Departments have "first due" responsibility for those service areas within the town which are located closer to their respective departments. Just as the RVFD is responsible for a portion of University Park (between 44th Avenue and US 1, bounded by Pineway) and in the City of College Park, RVFD responds to the area from US 1 to the CSX rail line from our boundary north to Guilford Road.

Another point to consider is the comparison of the RVFD request for funding and the funds allocated by other municipalities. In the petition, RVFD required that $50,000 be assigned, which is 2.5% of the town's budget. A survey of other towns and cities shows that University Park allocates 0.2% divided among the three departments which serve them. New Carrollton allocates 0.06%, Hyattsville gives 0.7%, Bowie and Greenbelt assign 0.4%. The City of Laurel assigns 2% of budget. Bladensburg, College Park, Edmonston and Berwyn Heights make no allocation to the fire departments which serve their residents.

Our current budget allocates $4,000 for the RVFD, (0.2% of our budget) to cover expenses such as equipment repair.


Item found on street in 4800 block of Queensbury Road on March 25. Owner may claim by identifying. Call town office, 301-927-6381.

Gerry Kiernan is councilmember for Ward 5 and Chair of the Finance Committee.

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