City Seeking More Details On New Fire Service Accord

SALISBURY — Greater coordination with administration in renegotiating a Fire Service Agreement (FSA) with Wicomico County would be ideal, according to the Salisbury City Council.

At the end of its work session Monday, the council forwarded a number of questions to city administration that they felt will paint them a clear picture of how to move forward.

The original FSA between Salisbury and Wicomico was drafted in July 2005. It was terminated in 2007 so the city could re-negotiate terms. With Salisbury once again in negotiations with the county, the City Council agreed it wants to reach out to administration to make sure both sides are on the same page, since any agreement will require final council approval.

“I wish we knew what the other hand was doing so we could coordinate this better,” said Councilman Tim Spies.

While the original agreement required that Salisbury provide certain fire services countywide, including things like hazardous material control, technical rescue, and trench rescue, in exchange for financial compensation from the county, Spies pointed out that details are different now than they were in 2005 or 2007.

“There have been changes that are going to have to be adjusted to,” he said.
The city’s fire boat needs to be considered, added Council Vice President Debbie Campbell.

“Now that we have the fire boat and the expense of operating the fire boat, the biggest beneficiaries, arguably, of having the fire boat are not city residents,” Campbell said.

Campbell agreed with Spies that “some adjustment, some something as part of the discussion that explores that” is needed. Things like a surcharge on the boat for every mile it operates outside of city limits might be considered, continued Campbell.

However, the city needs to be careful with attaching costs to services without having hard data, argued Councilwoman Shanie Shields.

“I think we’ve got to be careful of charging things,” she told the council.

But Shields was adamant that a new arrangement with Wicomico needs to be ironed out and blamed the county for “dragging their feet.”

Others on the council were also interested in seeing actual figures that represent what Wicomico has been paying for Salisbury’s extended fire services.

“We need to know the numbers,” said Spies.

Campbell suggested that the council look at some of the annual reports filed with the county that would contain data on payments made for services. She was also curious as to how the money is coming into Salisbury, whether it was paid as a lump sum, paid to volunteer stations or some combination of both.

Others on the council were also curious about the details surrounding exactly what sort of services the city is asked to provide countywide with haz-mat control, multiple types of rescues, and other services.

“We’re going to have to approve this so it’s better for us to agree upfront what the city’s position is on negotiation,” said Campbell.

Council President Terry Cohen echoed Campbell and said it would be pointless to continue negotiations that might cause the council “intense heartburn.” The council voted to reach out to administration, which is currently involved in negotiations, with a series of questions addressed to City Manager John Pick including how payments are made to Salisbury and exactly what services will be requested. On the county end, the council will also request copies of past FSA expense reports to get a better grasp on fair prices.

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