OCEAN CITY – A tentative agreement regarding the future of the town’s fire services was reached this week, a proposal that would place the fire and emergency services, volunteers and Fire Marshal’s office all under the control of one fire chief, current Ocean City Volunteer Fire Company (OCVFC) Chief Chris Larmore.
The agreement, which will not be secure until a Mayor and Council meeting Monday night, came after months of contention and two days of meetings amongst a panel made up of town officials, volunteer and career fire/EMS representatives and citizen representatives of the town.
“We did come up, by about 2:30 yesterday, with a recommendation that was unanimous,” said Mayor Rick Meehan. “The Fire Marshal’s office, the volunteer fire company and the fire/EMS division will all report to the fire chief who will report to the Mayor and City Council through the City Manager. The first fire chief will be Chris Larmore.”
Larmore reported Wednesday that the recommendation was well received at an OCVFC meeting held Tuesday night.
“I’m very pleased with it.” Larmore said. “I’m also extremely proud to report that all of the members in attendance last night voted unanimously to support this decision.”
Larmore was also pleased with the unanimous support of the panel at Tuesday morning’s meeting.
“That is actually quite unusual that we could get something like that. The fact that we have, so far, unanimous consent, does give us a great chance to succeed,” he said.
Meehan agreed that the unanimous support was a positive sign.
“I’m very proud of the volunteer fire company and of the members of the fire/EMS division for their service, and for their support of this recommendation,” he said.
The ultimate fate of the recommendation will be determined at Monday’s meeting.
“The next step will be Monday night and then we can move forward together,” said Meehan.
As a condition of Larmore’s transition to Ocean City fire chief, Larmore will no longer hold the position of the OCVFC chief.
“I will be stepping down as the volunteer fire chief,” confirmed Larmore.
However, Larmore’s acceptance of a town employee position does not mean his inclusion in the town payroll.
“It is still a non-compensated position,” Larmore said, maintaining that he has never had any interest in being paid for the job.
“I’m very happy that we did this. I think it proves that if you all get together and open your eyes to all of the issues, you can be successful,” said Meehan.
Tuesday’s meeting was a closed session, consisting only of selected panel members. The panel members included OCVFC representatives, fire/EMS union representatives, the mayor, Council members Joe Mitrecic, Nancy Howard and Margaret Pillas, facilitator Bill Hudson, and citizens Hale Harrision, Peck Miller, Joe Paroda and Leighton Moore.
“The citizen participation was very instrumental in helping us come to this recommendation,” said Meehan.
The meeting was deemed “closed doors” in hopes that all emotions and issues could be hashed out without the hindrance of the public’s presence. Larmore reported, however that contrary to what many expected, discussion centered on progress rather than focusing on past problems and emotions.
“I think there was very little emotion, it did not have to get into the emotions of what we have gone through,” said Larmore. “It was a long day, but a lot was done to come up with what we all believe is right.”
Meehan said the key to moving ahead is staying true to the commitment.
“Everybody has to be committed and on board. The speakers on Monday stressed commitment and moving forward together and that is our goal,” said Meehan.