OCEAN CITY – Some may have taken it as a threat to leave, but town officials say it was a cry for help.
Firefighters are usually the ones lending a hand rather than asking for one, and that fact could make the Maryland State Firemen’s Association’s (MSFA) request for help all the more alarming for local leaders.
At last week’s tourism commission meeting, representatives from the MSFA had a sit down with the commission to express their desire for a bit more help on the city’s end so that they could continue to come to Ocean City for their annual convention, a tradition that has linked the MSFA to the resort for the last seven decades.
“We want to make it work because this has been our home for 70 years, and we don’t want to change that, but we also need to deal with the reality that we are getting some pushback from our membership saying they can’t afford it,” said Ron Siainicki of the MSFA.
The associations membership, which is comprised of hundreds of fire departments representing volunteer and career fire fighters across the state, are essentially looking for a gigantic “group rate” of sorts by way of discounted bus passes, room rates that wavered towards all-inclusive, and various other perks and incentives.
Siainicki said that the members are looking for a greater range of price points as far as accommodations go, and they specifically asked the hotels to step forward and lend a hand.
“We want to get a list of hotels and motels that can offer us a special rate for the week of our convention so we can advertise it to our members as a place that we want them to stay and a place where they can stay,” said Siainicki.
This spring, prior to June’s annual convention, the association came to Mayor Rick Meehan and asked him personally to try to help get some members of the business community to spend advertising dollars in their annual publication as a revenue booster for the group who claim to be struggling for fundraising.
Meehan has been vocal in his support for the MSFA and has repeatedly cited the significant economical shot in the arm that the thousands of firefighters who come to the annual convention give to the town each June, a time when businesses are waiting for schools around the mid-Atlantic area to close and hot weather to drive tourists to the area.
“Some people say that Memorial Day is the start of the season, but there are many who know that once the firemen come to town, summer truly starts,” Meehan said at a previous tourism commission meeting.
Commission Chairperson and Councilwoman Mary Knight said that getting the business community to step to the plate to help the firemen’s association should not be a problem at all.
“It shouldn’t be a hard sell to anyone as far as creating some discounted rates for them,” said Knight. “They are firefighters. They are heroes and we love having them in Ocean City, so I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to help keep them here for another 70 years.”
Knight said that the MSFA’s discussion with the tourism commission was a plea more than a threat and remained hopeful that the business community would continue to help keep the group coming back to the resort.