Aside from the obvious differences of opinion over the validity of the current “24-72” work schedule, one of the most pressing concerns moving forward has to be the major disconnect between Fire Chief Chris Larmore and many rank-and-file firefighters. This is nothing new but it hasn’t played out in a public forum like it did this week.
Barring some unforeseen circumstances, it appears inevitable that Ocean City will begin transitioning away from the “24-72” schedule and toward some sort of hybrid 12-hour shift with mixed days off. That was the city’s final offer and there does not seem to be any wiggle room away from that.
This entire situation has been awkward because it pits leaders directly against their employees. That was only exacerbated when Larmore this week made a claim there have been problems with his staff’s response times while the employees contend that’s not the case. Both sides use numbers to back up their claims.
In the regrettable and revealing position of facing the council with his back to his employees, Larmore was overly aggressive in defending the city’s position in my opinion. His comments confirm what has been known for some time — his leadership style does not sit well with his staff. City leaders are aware of the ongoing issues there, but they apparently are fine with it.
“The union president has said only two calls out of 5,927 missed that two-minute guideline [in 2015],” Larmore said. “While that is very commendable, the reality is 93.6 percent of our EMS calls were answered under two minutes and 87.4 percent of all calls were answered under two minutes. That leaves over 350 calls that were not answered in under two minutes. … There were five calls in the last four years that were not just delayed. Personnel did not answer the dispatch. On many of those calls, personnel were asleep. That is a fact and I’m not proud of that fact. I’m sure none of our people are proud of that fact.”
Later, union President Ryan Whittington responded, “We’ve never heard from the fire chief until tonight. For him to question my credibility is disheartening. We’re talking about five calls, not 350. Our department has never missed a call for service.”
This was an embarrassing situation where we have a department leader essentially painting a picture that may or may not be accurate to prove a point and explain a stance. Larmore did not like having this “difference of opinion” that results in an “appearance of being against my people.” Unfortunately, that’s exactly the take away here.
Equally disturbing is the uncertainty of what’s the truth. Is it five missed calls or 350? It should be clear, not ambiguous. If it’s true 350 calls missed the two-minute mark, then a change is needed. If it’s five, then it’s not.
Interesting goings on in West Virginia on the school calendar front. This is of note because the Maryland legislature is currently considering legislation to keep all public schools from opening before Labor Day. To what degree the legislature is seriously mulling this mandate is unclear at this point because most public education leaders and groups oppose it. That outcome will play out in the coming weeks in Maryland, but knowledgeable sources in Annapolis have indicated to me the House and Senate bills are both unlikely to make it out of committee again this year.
Over in West Virginia, on the heels of the House approval, the Senate voted 32-2 on Wednesday to prevent county school systems from going to school past June 10 and beginning before Aug. 10.
The legislation tackles the specifics of school industry days and removes the requirement for 180 “separate” days of instruction. The idea is the school systems can meet the minimum day requirement by adding time, such as 15 minutes, to each school day starting after inclement weather season has ended.
Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan penned a humorous letter this week to NFL quarterbacks Kirk Cousins, Joe Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning in an attempt to get “Ocean City” or “OC” or “OCMD” into a line of scrimmage call similar to how Peyton Manning called out “Omaha” during the latter part of his career.
In his letter from Meehan to Cousins, the mayor wrote, “Now Kirk, we know you’ve got your own catchphrase that galvanized Washington last season. Still, we think that you’ll certainly like the option to create your own in-game call as well. After working in Washington for the last few years, you know that OCMD is where many of your fans vacation. While you’re certainly invited to spend your off-season (or, vacation days, as we call them) in OCMD, we’d settle for a few mentions each game at the line of scrimmage. I hope you take this request into consideration, and know that OCMD is ready to be part of your career long term. We hope to see you soon and wish you the best of luck this season!”
The chances of this happening are obviously slim, but you certainly can’t blame the mayor for giving it a shot. It also garnered the resort some free media attention, which is never a bad thing.