OCEAN CITY – Tentative dates for a meeting between town officials and the Ocean City Volunteer Fire Company (OCVFC) have been set, but who will be included in those discussions remains to be decided.
Council President Joe Mitrecic reported this week that Monday, April 14 and Tuesday, April 15, are the tentative dates for the meeting between the OCVFC and town officials.
Negotiations between the parties reached a stalemate after neither party could agree to the proposals that had been set forth last month. The Mayor and Council proposed that OCVFC Chief Chris Larmore act as interim fire chief, with the condition that he step down as volunteer fire chief. The OCVFC could not agree to the proposal, however, suggesting instead that all of the town’s fire services be split, with the OCVFC in charge of all fire services and the career fire/EMS personnel responsible for all emergency and medical services.
After several lengthy and contentious discussions, both parties agreed to come together at one table, in an attempt to hash out the issues. Since that time, Mayor Rick Meehan and Chief Larmore have been in contact, attempting to find a date when a majority of the affected parties could meet.
Mitrecic reported this week that two tentative meetings had been set. The first, to be held Monday, April 14, will be open to the public and the press. Three or four speakers will be present to provide insight and recommendations. A second meeting will be held Tuesday, April 15, and will deal more specifically with the issues.
“This will be a smaller meeting between the city and the volunteer fire company,” Mitrecic said.
Both meetings are to be held at the Convention Center.
Although the April 14 meeting is slated to be an open meeting, the April 15 meeting will be closed to the public and the press.
“It is with the concurrence of the fire chief [Larmore], the mayor and the city solicitor that we would possibly get more done in a closed meeting on Tuesday,” said Mitrecic.
The idea is that by closing the meeting, there will be less grandstanding for the sake of the public and more honest discussion.
“I think it’s a shame to close it,” said Councilman Jim Hall. “It is a sensitive subject, I really don’t know why we’re closing it.”
Mitrecic explained that four people, to be agreed on by both the mayor and the chief, would be selected from the community to participate. Not all council members will be present either, Mitrecic said, explaining that the City Council will be selecting their representatives at Monday night’s council meeting. He added that while the meeting would likely be a closed meeting, all decisions would ultimately be brought to the City Council for an open discussion.
“I think the press should be allowed in the room, they’re just reporting on the meeting,” said Councilwoman Maragret Pillas, pointing out that members of the press were unbiased parties and would not be interjecting opinions. City Solicitor Guy Ayres pointed out, however, that opening the meeting to the press and not to the public would not be feasible.
At this time, the dates and status of both meetings remain tentative, further discussion will continue at Monday evening’s regular session of the Mayor and Council.