Deep in the offices of Monday night, council members and city employees were applauding a good council meeting, highlighted by the approval of .
In the hour after the meeting adjourned, Mayor Wayne Dougherty joked with Council President Bill Martin that he had to hold back from doing his own song-and-dance rendition of “If You’re Happy And You Know It.”
After a four-plus month process, council unanimously passed an ordinance that will mandate the installation of carbon monoxide detectors in a vast majority of Havre de Grace residences. .
At 7:48 p.m., less than an hour into what would be a one-hour, 45-minute meeting, council passed the legislation which began as a discussion between Council President Bill Martin and Susquehanna Hose Company Chief Scott Hurst in the summertime, turned into a point of heated debate shortly before it was introduced, and ate up space on comment sections and newspaper headlines from October through Monday.
While the words “carbon monoxide” likely roll of the tongues of council members with ease, the overwhelming sense Monday night was that the hard work and repetitive discussions were well worth the effort.
“It’s probably the most meaningful legislation I’ve passed as a member of this council,” Martin said. “Eradication versus sustain—do you want to eradicate a silent killer, or sustain it?
“I think we took the first step towards eradication of carbon monoxide cases in the city,” Martin said. “We acted tonight, and I’m very proud to sit up here with a good group of guys.”
The labor-intensive discussion of the adjustments in the legislation—which included the significant move last month of removing the language from another ordinance altogether and creating a separate, stand-alone ordinance—created a wedge of tension between council members, with public conversations edging on intense in recent weeks.
“We’ve had an open and honest discussion,” Councilman Mitch Shank said. “It shows this council can work with various groups in our community and come to a successful conclusion.”
Dougherty feels there needs to be more education on carbon monoxide—a project he revealed Hurst was already a step ahead on getting accomplished.
Martin admitted to expanding his own knowledge with Hurst’s help.
“I’ve learned a lot about this,” Martin said. “This has been one of the most soul-searching ordinances I’ve ever dealt with.”
Hurst said the legislation can save lives in Havre de Grace. He said that 95-99 percent of the homes in the city would be required to have carbon monoxide detectors, even given the amendments made Monday night.
It’s been a long conversation for Hurst, who joked the council wouldn’t see him as often after Monday’s meeting. Hurst has been a regular attendee at council meetings since the detector legislation became a regular topic.
“I don’t do it just to do it,” Hurst said. “I do it for the City of Havre de Grace.”
Hurst has had a common adversary in the process—albeit a professional, courteous one—with citizen Bill Watson.
Watson spoke again Monday, joking with council to open his dialogue.
“I promise you wont have to see my mug up here too many more times now,” Watson said.
Watson was credited by a number of council members for speaking up and defending civil liberties in his pursuit to stop the legislation.
“You’ve made it important to yourself and to your community,” Councilman Randy Craig said. “I want to thank you for being a very active citizen.”
Martin admitted he had to separate himself from political platform beliefs during the legislative process.
He quoted Sir Edmund Burke at one point Monday night: “Evil will always triumph when good men fail to act."
Craig suggested that the actions of council alone would not be enough.
“This piece of paper won’t save one life,” Craig said, calling for more education on the topic. “That’s what will save lives—a detector, not just an ordinance.”