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From the Track

My tax dollars at work…

Kip Hamilton

(Nov, 2011) Did anyone catch it? There was a trick in last month’s article. We talked about how the Federal Government was actually created by the governments of the 13 sovereign states and in order to keep the power of the new Federal Government constrained, the states laid out what the Federal Government could do in the 18 Enumerated Powers. Last month, I left off the last five to see if anyone was paying attention. Did you notice? Did it make you think that something was missing? Did you take the time to go check?

If you did, that’s great! We all should be taking a much more active role in questioning what we hear and not just blindly going along with something because it sounds right. Go check it out! It is factual? Is it even legal? We need to take our duties as citizens much more seriously…especially now.

On last month’s list of enumerated powers did you see anywhere that the Federal Government is tasked with providing Fire & Rescue services to the citizens? Nope…and it’s not on any of the five I left off, either. That function is reserved to the states and then delegated to the county and local governments.

In the State of Maryland, your emergency services are provided by the Frederick County government and paid for by your state and local income taxes. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, however, although we do have counties, there are no county-wide emergency services. We do have a centralized 911 dispatch system, but the police, fire, and ambulance services are the responsibility of the local boroughs and townships and in Adams County, the fire and ambulance services are 100% volunteer. Their entire operations are funded by contributions, donations and fundraising activities, not by any tax money. How many of you knew that?

Once, out on a fire scene, a resident was chatting with a member of Fairfield Fire & EMS and made the casual comment, "My tax dollars at work…" Uhm…, no, actually, all of the people fighting that fire and directing traffic and providing the EMS coverage on the scene got out of their beds at home and came to give their talents to their neighbor who needed their help; all on their own time….gratis…free…no charge. Think about that a minute. How often do we see this these days? Unfortunately, not so much anymore and it’s getting worse.

You may recall reading in the PA newspapers that at least one of the volunteer fire companies in Adams Co. has closed their doors. Then, there is the controversy over the amount of the contributions going to the Mt. Joy Township fire department. These are financial issues, but the root cause of these problems is that fewer numbers of people are volunteering to help operate the departments. And by "operate" I don’t mean just running calls.

Remember, in PA, we have to raise our own funds. At Fairfield, our annual operating budget is around ¾ of a million dollars. For every person who responds to a call, there are probably 8-12 people volunteering to raise the funds to make this possible. In 2010, there were 120 different people who helped out at our Thursday night Bingo games! That is an incredible effort and a sign of just how much our department means to the community; that so many people would help to sustain its operations.

We have been working toward re-establishing the Fairfield Fire & EMS department as a vibrant part of the Fairfield community, just like fire departments used to be. Did you know that we sponsor the Fairfield Area Senior Center? They meet every weekday morning in our lobby. We sponsor a Boy Scout troop. We sponsor a Zumba exercise class. We are a Toys-for-Tots drop-off center. We participate in the high school’s homecoming parade. We sponsored an EMT class at the high school last year. We offer free blood pressure screenings to anyone who stops by while a crew is there. We donate the use of our hall so that our residents can hear local political debate live and in person.

We participate in the annual Independence Day celebration and National Night Out get-togethers at the Carroll Valley Borough Park. We have groups of young children come into the station and we teach them about fire safety. We have weddings, family gatherings and memorial services for the community in our hall. We provide an emergency operations center for the Fairfield Regional Emergency Management Agency in case of a local disaster. We will bring you home from the hospital if you can’t ride in a car. We will come pump your flooded basement. We provide a place for Santa to come and have breakfast with our youngest residents every year. In short, we are really making an effort to make a difference in our community.

But, we could use your help with all of this. By the time you read this, we will have re-launched a totally new website packed with interesting and helpful information. The web address is the same as always: Please take note of the dash. One of the pages on the new site is a long list of things we could use help with. You might have heard in the past that we needed help and thought that we were just looking for people to run calls and thought that really isn’t something you could do. That’s true, we could certainly use more responding members, but there are so many other tasks that must get accomplished in support of our operations. Or maybe you have wanted to help us help your community, but just didn’t know what we needed done.

If any of this is resonating with you, please take a moment to check out our new website. Scroll down to the "How YOU Can Help" tab and look over the wide-ranging list of tasks. Certainly you will find something that interests you or that you have experience with. Then, please contact our office (there is an email link right there on the page, or call.) We will gladly help you get started making a difference, too!

Read other articles by Kip Hamilton