Council Approves Pension Benefit for Fallen Firefighter
Tougher penalties for possessing spray paint cans and panhandling among other measures passed.
The family of a volunteer firefighter who died in the line of duty will receive a pension death benefit after the County Council approved proposed changes to county penion law Monday night.
Mark Falkenhan was a volunteer firefighter at the Lutherville Volunteer Fire Co. when he died on Jan. 19 while fighting an apartment fire in Hillendale.
But Falkenhan previously served 16 years in the Baltimore County Fire Department. He left his pension in the county system when he left the department and joined the U.S. Secret Service.
The changes to the pension system allow the county to pay a death benefit to survivors of volunteer firefighters who die in the line of duty and have at least 15 years of service with the county and did not withdraw their pension.
The new benefit will pay Falkenhan's family about 30 percent of his average final salary with the county.
County officials said they don't believe the change will affect any other firefighters.
The council also unanimously approved the following measures:
- A bill clarifying that county police can enforce panhandling laws on both county and state roads in the county. The county passed a law in 2006 requiring a permit to solicit donations from medians and roadway shoulders. In 2009, the General Assembly passed similar restrictions. Councilman Todd Huff, a Republican, said the bill clarifies that permits are also needed for state roads in the county and allows police to enforce the law. The police department does not track citations issued to persons who violate the panhandling law.
- A bill that increases the penalty form $500 to $1000 for being caught with a spray paint can with the intent to deface or damage private property.
- A resolution asking the state to designate nearly 230 acres of industrial zoned land in Woodlawn as an enterprise zone.
- Several land acquisitions to expand roads, including the New Forge Road extension in Perry Hall, the widening of Owings Mills Boulevard, and widening of Rolling Road between Orchard Avenue and Liberty Road in the Woodlawn area.
In other council news:
- The council passed a resolution naming five residents to its redistricting commission including Ed Crizer, Jim Gillis, Robert Latshaw and Anne Neal. The council also named real estate agent Ralph Wright to the commission. Wright replaces Dunbar Brooks, who was initially named to the commission but later withdrew.
- About 16 people testified before the council about a Baltimore County Public Schools system rule they say prohibits PTAs and other community groups from using school facilities. The residents asked the council to pressure the schools system into changing the rule. By law, the school system is a state agency and the council has no power to force such a change.