by Lisa Tome
While Rising Sun officials have moved forward with major projects such as the dog park and the wastewater treatment plant, online bill pay, and their presence on social media, the town's fire suppression system has been neglected.
That's what Community Fire Company of Rising Sun Chief Matt Blakeley said last week.
"The last time that we (fire company) have records of, the hydrants were flow tested six to eight years ago. It is the town's responsibility," said Blakeley. "I am concerned due to certain areas with lower flow." Those areas include parts of Pearl Street, Reynolds Avenue, and Cooper Street.
Blakeley said that the fire company used to partner with the town in helping them get the annual flow tests done. He said that town's role was reduced and what was once a joint project became more the sole responsibility of the fire company.
Blakeley said that two years ago, he went to then town Commissioner Augie Pierson and Town Public Works Supervisor Ron Thomas, "they weren't into getting it done," said Blakeley.
He is concerned that the hydrants haven't been maintained. He said that the caps have been painted over multiple times and could be stuck if firefighters needed to tap into a hydrant during an emergency.
Blakeley said that since the town crew works mainly days, and volunteers work various hours, it was hard to
schedule a time. He said in the past, town officials wanted a month notice of when the fire company would help.
He said firefighters have done "the minimum" to maintain the hydrants. "We were told not to touch the hydrants by Augie (Pierson). We haven't made it an issue. But town administrator Calvin (Bonenberger) knows it has to be done yearly," said Blakeley.
An accusation that someone broke a hydrant last fall has also left fire company members not anxious to help.
The chief said that the hydrants not being maintained does pose a health risk if a hydrant is needed and it hasn't been maintained, flow tested, or the cap is stuck.
"I want to see updates flow tests and routine maintenance to the hydrants. It's the town's responsibility and they should provide us with the records," said Blakeley.
He said the fire company members would offer "minimal" assistance if the town needs it.
"We have limited staff. We shouldn't have to do their job for free," added Blakeley.
Last week, during the town meeting, Commissioner Bernie Chiominto said he is concerned about hydrant testing because it is a public safety issue. Bonenberger said that the hydrants were last tested in 2008-09.
"My concern is that they haven't been done in six years. I want to make sure it (hydrant system) works," said Chiominto.
Chiominto also questioned whether someone should be hired to do it or if it falls on the town maintenance staff.
Mayor Bob Fisher said the town staff will do it with assistance from staff from the Maryland Rural Water Association.
Commissioner Travis Marion said Fisher shouldn't handle the matter. "Some of it is the mayor's delivery. I think some of these people don't want to deal with the mayor," said Marion.
"Give me the names," said Fisher.
"Half the town," said Commissioner George Walker.
"My concern is public safety," said Chiominto.
Bonenberger said he was not aware that the town crew would do the work.
"The fire company does not have the resources and they don't have the time to do the hydrants," said Chiominto, who also said he was told that the town crews are already too busy to get it done.
"We need to make sure it gets done right and nothing gets broke," said Chiominto.