Fire Station Fundraising To Continue Without Consultant

OCEAN PINES – Officials continue to pursue funding for the construction of a new fire station.

Last week, General Manager John Viola presented members of the Ocean Pines Budget and Finance Committee with an update on the South Station capital campaign.

As the Ocean Pines Volunteer Fire Department (OPVFD) looks to construct a new firehouse, a workgroup has been established to kickstart fundraising efforts. Viola, however, said officials will now have to do so without the assistance of a fundraising expert.

“The person we had hired had to back down for reasons she gave, which is fine,” he told committee members last week. “That fundraising, that approach, frankly now is not happening. We have offered to the fire department the resources we have here, like I always have, on what they want to do next.”

Last fall, the OPVFD workgroup issued a request for proposals seeking consultants for the creation of a feasibility study that would be used to launch a capital fundraising campaign. And in the weeks that followed, the group received six proposals, with prices ranging from $28,000 to $60,000.

In a December presentation, however, workgroup representatives told board members the group had since changed course and was seeking a local fundraising expert instead.

“Our in-depth review indicated an alternate path to success, and we requested a formal proposal from a respected fundraiser who has raised millions of dollars for the Salisbury Zoo and Delmarva Discovery Museum,” workgroup leader Ted Moroney said at the time.

In an update this week, Viola said that expert was no longer working with the workgroup. When asked if fundraising efforts have stalled, Viola noted that the department continues to sell raffle tickets for a 2023 Ford Explorer. Committee member George Solyak also questioned the board’s involvement in fundraising efforts.

“The memorandum of understanding, if I remember it right, said that the board will work with the fire department on fundraising,” he said. “Who from the board is working with them?”

Director Monica Rakowski, committee liaison, said no one had been assigned to the task.

“In general, it’s on all of the board members,” she replied.

Viola also told committee members last week the OPVFD workgroup would be meeting with contractors to review preliminary designs, update timelines and receive cost estimates. He said a presentation would be made to the board this spring.

“It’s just a good time now to try and get an idea, with the changing environment of construction and logistics and all that stuff,” he said.

When asked if the cost estimates would be to refurbish or replace the fire station, Viola said it was one of the topics the workgroup would discuss with the contractors.

“We’re looking at that site, that building …,” he said. “Right now, in my mind, it could be either one.”

In addition to hiring a fundraising expert, workgroup members in December presented the board with a three-pronged fundraising approach that involved finding key donors, hosting community fundraising events and seeking grant funds. While the OPVFD currently has $1.7 million in state funding for the South Station construction, the workgroup had entered into an agreement with a local grant writer to find additional grant money.

“There’s no change in how much money they have put aside,” Viola said last week, “although we have a grant writer and we continue to look at grants to try and see what we can get.”

Last year, OPVFD leaders held a town hall meeting to discuss proposed South Station renovations, and the funding needed to make the project a reality. Officials are proposing an $8.6 million renovation that calls for a demolition of the station’s living and administrative quarters, the addition of a two-story building, and a new bay. With $1.7 million in state funding and $1 million in department reserve, the department and association are now seeking community support to fund the remaining costs.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.