OCEAN CITY – The City Council gave unanimous approval to the appointment of one fire chief at Monday night’s meeting, marking what many hope will be the first of several steps toward a true, combination fire service in Ocean City.
The recommendation calling for Ocean City Volunteer Fire Company (OCVFC) Fire Chief Chris Larmore to become the town’s first fire chief came after a two-day meeting of the minds last week. After a full day of presentations from other fire departments and a second day of negotiations amongst a carefully selected panel, the recommendation was born, garnering unanimous support from the panel.
Besides nominating Larmore as the town’s chief of fire and EMS, the recommendation calls for the fire/EMS, Fire Marshals office and OCVFC to report to Larmore. The chief of the OCVFC, fire/EMS Division Chief and Fire Marshal’s Office Division Chief will all report to Larmore, who will in turn report to the Mayor and City Council through the city manager.
The recommendation also calls for a few administrative changes. With the new title of fire chief for the town’s fire and EMS services, Larmore must relinquish his job as OCVFC chief. The Department of Emergency Services must also relinquish some control, giving up all authority to manage, administer and supervise the fire/EMS division to the EMS captain.
More importantly, the recommendation seeks to combine the town’s fire and EMS services, a goal that all parties involved have been seeking.
The unanimous vote by the City Council Monday night was met with no opposition from citizens in the audience, a drastic change from events just one month ago when the town and council was left split over the future of the town’s fire services. Proposals went as far as to suggest that all fire and EMS services be separated within the town. After reaching a stalemate between the town, paid members of the fire/EMS division and members of the OCVFC, a meeting calling all parties to the table to hash out the issues was suggested, in hopes that a consensus could be reached. It appears this week that meeting was successful, with all parties agreeing to the appointment of one fire chief.
“I’m sure all of us feel like the weight of the world is lifted off of our shoulders,” Larmore said Monday night.
Although the recommendation was approved with little fanfare Monday evening, Councilman Jay Hancock questioned whether the recommendation was enough, asking what the next steps will be.
“While it’s a great start, it’s far from reaching a combination department, which was what was presented in great detail last week,” Hancock said, referring to the presentations given by various fire chiefs on combination fire departments. Hancock suggested a timeline be made, highlighting the long- and short-term goals for the town’s fire services.
Mayor Rick Meehan addressed Hancock’s concerns, pointing out that all of the speakers, with the exception of one, were present for Tuesday’s negotiations and gave their approval of the resulting recommendation.
“I think this adequately addresses the concerns that the volunteers brought to us. We need to take this step, we need to pass this, we need to move forward to build this department,” said Meehan.
“I agree with both the mayor and with Jay,” said Council member Nancy Howard. “I think what we need to do now is the administrative things.”
Larmore maintained that the recommendation is a step in the right direction, noting that additional work to create a true combination department is already underway.
“I met with City Manager Dennis Dare last Friday and we had a very productive meeting,” said Larmore, explaining that several goals were established at the meeting. Larmore said that he also had a fruitful meeting with two representatives of the paid fire/EMS division last week.
“I look forward to working with everybody. A lot of the friendships have already started to mend. If you look tonight you’ll see everybody sitting on the same side of the room.”