In 2009, press releases by the County stated that the fees were intended “to recover costs generated by providing . . . transports via County ambulances.” Where once the intent was to seemingly limit the fee to “County ambulances,” which would necessarily remove those transports provided by NON-County purchased units, the County Executive has now broadened the imposition of the fee to all Fire and Rescue service vehicles, regardless of how those vehicles were purchased, how the equipment onboard the units was purchased, how the fuel was purchased, and whether the personnel staffing the vehicles are volunteers or career members of the fire and rescue services. It should be noted that several stations in the County (including the BCC Rescue Squad) are either entirely (as in the case of BCCRS) or substantially funded by community donations, meaning that the equipment, gas, vehicles, buildings, etc. are not owned or operated by the County. And yet, the County Executive still intends to charge for transports made in those units.
The County Executive’s current plan is perhaps most short-sighted in its potential effect on fire service volunteers. Notwithstanding that no money will actually make its way back to fund non-County owned stations, volunteers, non-County purchased vehicles, or non-County purchased equipment, some County residents will believe that donating to these organizations will be unnecessary (since they will believe that the fees being imposed are going to all fire and rescue departments in the County). If donations decrease substantially to these organizations (like BCC Rescue Squad and Wheaton Rescue Squad), how will the County Executive avoid incurring millions and millions of dollars in costs to hire career fire personnel to do jobs currently performed by volunteers and provide or replace community-purchased fuel, vehicles, or equipment? The County Executive will lose every cent he proposes to raise and more – putting the County (and its education system) in more fiscal jeopardy in three or ten years (long after his departure) than it is in now.
Finally, as some of you may be aware, fire and rescue departments throughout Montgomery County (including BCC Rescue Squad) provide opportunities for high school children to volunteer in the communitiies where they live. The experiences these kids have are invaluable to personal development. Young volunteers are taught what it means to give back to the community, be compassionate, be responsible, undertake difficult and demanding training, and respond, day and night, to help others and guide them through tragedies. If ambulance fees are imposed, these programs, and the entire volunteer system in Montgomery County, are at risk. Therefore, and for the reasons noted above, we urge you to oppose these ambulance fees.