There are many disparate positions regarding the ongoing spat between Berlin and its fire company, but the one thing all sides seem to agree on is it’s time to move beyond the present acrimony.
Last week epitomized how rocky this relationship has become with present leadership on both sides. Early in the week, Mayor Gee Williams confirmed the first salvo toward some sort of reconciliation has been made with town attorney Dave Gaskill seeking financial records from the Berlin Fire Company (BFC). It appears some early work is going to be done between Gaskill and BFC attorney Joe Moore before any sort of mediation takes place. What was most revealing about last week was the fact Williams said he hopes to see town funding restored to the BFC, but he made it clear it would not be at the previous commitment. Up until that point, it was unclear the mayor would go along with any sort of funding reinstatement.
Later in the week, however, just how sour relations continue to be with the town and BFC was confirmed once again. At issue is a fatal accident in Berlin on Dec. 26 that resulted in a police officer being asked to drive an ambulance rather than a paramedic or member of the BFC doing so as is standard practice. Some bold allegations have been made, including Williams alleging malfeasance on the accident scene by members of the BFC. A state probe will sort all this out and determine if there was wrongdoing, but the situation has made a rocky relationship between town and BFC brass even more wobbly.
The time has come to get this situation ironed out. There’s no question current town leadership and BFC higher-ups are never going to be on the same page, but there must be a meeting of the minds for the best interests of the town. It’s heartening to learn that process is at least underway, albeit in an early stage at this point.
I have always believed through this discourse the town will never fund the BFC at the $600,000-plus level it was prior to the relationship becoming fractured. My feeling was it would be cut in half most likely as a compromise measure, and I still think that may be the best option at this point for the town, the BFC and the citizens. Although the finances need to be worked out, there is also the matter of managing the personnel and who handles those specific responsibilities.
Indeed, there are some weighty issues to resolve, but it’s time to get a contract in place that will alleviate the public’s mounting concerns.
The Ocean City Mayor and Council debated briefly this week over public comment periods at its work sessions. The council staggers its meetings, holding Monday night legislative meetings every other week and the more informal work sessions every other Tuesday afternoon.
The council allows public comment at the end of its Monday night meetings but does not during the afternoon work sessions. That came up for discussion this week with Councilman Brent Ashley suggesting citizens be given the opportunity at the work sessions as well. Ashley only had support from colleague Margaret Pillas. The rest of the council decided to table the matter and to allow for it to be discussed during future strategic planning sessions.
At any government meeting involving elected officials, I think citizens should be permitted time to speak so long as it’s in an orderly manner. For consistency sake, it seems appropriate for the policy to be the same for all meetings.
It was predictable for the Berlin Mayor and Council to delay approval of a proposed wind turbine in the eastern part of town, but I hope the town eventually signs off on this project. It’s my hope the council looks beyond the inevitable NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) concerns and understands the bargain that has been presented to it. After the town has done its due diligence in educating nearby residents who most likely will not be impacted at all by the turbine, the council should approve this proposal, which will bring positive energy savings as well as favorable media exposure as well.