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Havre de Grace City Council Approves Ordinance 924

Havre de Grace city council unanimously approved an ordinance that will mandate the installation of carbon monoxide detectors in the majority of city residences.

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.”

Rick McGregor February 08, 2011 at 06:16 PM
One question, if anyone knows. Do we have a law requiring fire/smoke detectors in (almost) every home? I'm guessing that fire and smoke inhalation are at least as lethal as carbon monoxide. Personally, I feel that we should have both in our homes. I do have a problem requiring them by law in our personal homes. Insurance companies should give discounts to those that do. I also feel ok to have public campaigns to encourage them. Will be interesting to see how this law will be enforced.
Fred Cullum February 08, 2011 at 07:06 PM
Ordinance 924 deals with both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Jason Falkenstine February 09, 2011 at 04:20 AM
not a fan of this at all....it may be a good idea for the general public to have these detectors, but I don't believe its any governments job to tell me what to put in my own house. Where does it end?
Brian February 09, 2011 at 10:17 PM
Mandating the purchase of any item and forcing you to keep it under penalty of fine or imprisonment is unconstitutional. Quite frankly, I'm sick and tired of the SHC running rickshaw over HdG politics. I think they are allowed too much power politically and I think the number of locations and quantity of on hand equipment is both too many and unsustainable. Jim Miller was correct when he stated the SHC is the "sacred cow" of HdG. Take a look at HdG. The government buildings, whether it be the City Hall building or the police station or the Post Office or the many, many fire houses,all stand as monuments of moneys spent by government that were collected from private citizens. Take a look at the vacancies all over the city. Look at the abandoned Coke Co. down the street. These buildings are in dis-repair as the government buildings stand like castles. What is wrong with this picture????? Lower our taxes and take direction from the citizens, not your municipalities!!
Brent February 10, 2011 at 12:09 AM
Since when has the HdG Post Office been: A. taxpayer funded, OR B. Standing like a castle? I'm lost on both points. But I do think the SHC does have an awful say in local politics and policy (Ordinance 924 and the recent spat over marking hydrants are perfect examples.) Be that as it may they do not always get there way: if that was the case, the 4th of July Carnival would have sacked several years ago.

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