Cooler Heads Prevail With Tentative Deal

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The tentative accord reached between the Ocean City Volunteer Fire Company (OCVFC) and the Mayor and Council is a sound agreement. It’s essentially what the city proposed a month ago – Volunteer Chief Chris Larmore would be the new city-paid fire chief in charge of all aspects of fire service in town in exchange for resigning from his leadership post with the volunteer company. It was a good compromise then and it’s exactly that today.

A combination approach to fire services is an industry trend today.  That much was confirmed at Monday’s public meeting when a hand full of fire company officials from outside Ocean City attested to the benefits of a joint volunteer-paid service.

It was a good decision to bring in these outsiders to let Ocean City know the current stalemate is not unique. It was helpful to hear what other fire companies have been through on their way to a combination service. One common aspect with all of them is it was controversial and heated at times. However, according to those officials who spoke on Monday, they are better off for it today. Each of the speakers assured the city the key to keep a harmonious relationship is strong leadership and continual communication.

On Tuesday, a private meeting was held, and officials present said it was a productive gathering that resulted in a tentative deal, approved unanimously by all elected officials present as well as the volunteer company’s membership later. Thus setting up Monday’s meeting at City Hall when the full council will hear the full proposal on the table.

If we learned anything this week, it was that a fire service that blends paid staff and volunteers can be effective, albeit a concept most on both sides would prefer to do without. The fact is nobody will ever love this arrangement, but it works around the country, and there’s no reason it should not work in Ocean City. It may not be exactly what the volunteers nor the paid fire/EMS employees want, but it can work.

The fear now is something will happen between now and Monday to derail the tentative accord.  It seemed officials were cautiously optimistic all would go well at Monday’s meeting, but there’s no guarantee that emotions will not again set the tone and disrupt the process. The reason why this week was so successful was it was a business meeting. Contrary to all the steps leading up to this week, there were no emotions brought into the situation. Congratulations to all involved in the discourse on that front. It’s our hope it stays that way through the weekend and into Monday.

We hope this compromise deal moves ahead on Monday. It’s the best solution for all involved with the end result continuing to be that Ocean City is adequately protected from a fire service standpoint.

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