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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Ambulance-fee gouge

In May, the Montgomery County Council, at the behest of Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, a Democrat, rammed through an ambulance user fee for all county residents and visitors ("Volunteers drop opposition to Montgomery County ambulance fee law," Web, Monday). This same ambulance fee was passed by Mr. Leggett and the council in 2010 and subsequently terminated by voters in a petition drive and subsequent referendum.

Mr. Leggett, always desperate for cash to fund his pet projects, radical organizations and union pensions, insists things are different in 2012. And he is correct, as not only did the council override the 2010 no-ambulance-fee landslide referendum vote, Mr. Leggett and the Montgomery County Volunteer Fire-Rescue Association together conspired to mislead the public, agreeing privately to split the proceeds of their new, ill-gotten $18-million ambulance user fee.

Eric Bernard, the executive director of the volunteer association, led the petition drive in 2010, leading to a landslide referendum victory over Mr. Leggett and the council. The volunteers had raised serious concerns about residents paying for a service already covered by taxes, as well as concerns that residents might hesitate or decline to call for an ambulance in an emergency because they would not want their insurance premiums to rise.

This time, however, Mr. Bernard sold his soul to the devil. The volunteer association, which blustered about the petition drive under way, never actually hit the streets to collect the needed signatures. In fact, the alleged petition never made the association website for easy download and completion by residents. Mr. Bernard, by misleading the public into believing the association was again leading the petition drive against this Leggett-driven affront to the voters, stifled other community organizations from playing that role. Belated, half-hearted statements by Mr. Bernard assuring the public that his volunteers would monitor emergency calls to eliminate any hint of deterrence to the $300 to $800 ambulance fee is an embarrassment to the hardworking fire-rescue volunteers. Mr. Bernard and co-conspirator, association President Marcine Goodloe, must go.

BRAD BOTWIN

Derwood

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