In many ways, compromise is the key to life. With government and public policy issues, it’s essential to maintaining a balance and moving forward. Perhaps no better example is the current situation involving the current state of affairs with the fire service in Ocean City as well as its future.
The scene at City Hall on Tuesday was not unlike others we have seen over the years. However, when there’s standing-room only at City Hall, it usually has something to do with money. Indirectly this issue certainly has much to do with finances, but this fire service issue is all about emotion, nostalgia and respect. Some will say it’s also about safety, a topic often lost during this debate, but that’s an argument for another day.
This situation is about as ugly as it gets, and there’s plenty of blame to go around in the ongoing squabble between the Ocean City Mayor and Council, the Ocean City Volunteer Fire Company (OCVFC) and the International Association of Fire Fighters Lodge 4269 (IAFF).
There’s tremendous drama in this ordeal and that’s often precluded the involved parties from coming to terms with a solution. Ocean City needs a combined paid and volunteer service. That’s much is clear to the objective and rational. The problem has been how to make that progression. The process to make that happen has certainly been flawed and revealed some troubling things about the individuals involved.
However, the proposal on the table is reasonable. It would make OCVFC Fire Chief Chris Larmore the paid chief under a number of stipulations including he must resign as volunteer chief. This did not sit well with the volunteers on hand Tuesday, but it’s our hope a little perspective will turn them around. This is a good compromise and it needs to be put into effect. Larmore could resign his volunteer post, an interim volunteer chief can be named, he can take on the new job while a permanent person is sought and he can then return to the volunteer chief after the city has made a hire.
Granted, this is not an ideal solution, but it could be the first step toward smoothing out relations between all parties involved. The volunteers are reportedly awaiting the proposal in writing before making a decision. It’s our hope they back it and do not fret over the 4-3 vote by the council, which is as divided as we have ever seen.
If the volunteers see fit to okay this proposal, the city can finally move ahead with the melding of the paid staff and the volunteers into one unit. It’s going to be a long process and what could take even longer is dealing with the animosity that currently exists. We do not see a harmonious relationship ever existing between the paid and volunteer crews. The hope is it will be a successful working partnership, but there will always be friction among some, no matter who is the eventual fire chief. There has been too much history and hurt feelings for the eroding relations to be healed in the short term. It will be interesting to see if time is able to work its wonders and get these men and women on the same page. In the meantime, this is a compromise and it’s worth pursuing.