Email declaration serves to confuse rebel fighters issue

An email stating the County Executive’s office will cancel endorsement of a fire service territory for Station 13 was misinterpreted, County Executive Bob Culver said, and the chief of the newly formed fire company agreed.

On Aug. 11, the Salisbury City Council agreed at a work session to not to allow neighborhoods around the eastern Route 13 Bypass to become a new service area for newly formed Station 13. Five days later, County Administrator Wayne Strausburg sent an email about the situation to to Laura Hurley, the County Council Administrator.

That e-mail, obtained by the Salisbury Independent, stated: “As you know, the City Council has rejected the creation of a fire/EMS district for Station 13. That being the case, there is no need to pursue the matter further.

“The Executive has, therefore, instructed me to cancel our endorsement regarding the matter. If you need a formal retraction, please advise me.”

Culver, though, said this week the e-mail simply meant the request to put the matter on a particular County Council meeting agenda was being canceled.

“I still support the fire volunteers,” Culver told the Salisbury Independent this week.

“My hands are tied. The Fire Chiefs Association voted for Station 13, for the volunteers to take over all the territory of Station 1,” he said, referring to the city’s Fire Department.

Culver was pulled into the Station 13 morass when its members — former Salisbury Company 1 volunteers — broke from the city department.

“I gave my word to (Salisbury Mayor) Jake (Day) that it was just going to be the area outside of the bypass. I honored that word. Now it has gotten to the point where they are saying there is no territory to be given. I am very much opposed to making this a political thing,” Culver said.

“I still support the volunteers. This is a Fire Chiefs Association thing. The Chiefs voted for these guys to have a territory but now somebody is trying to change that … Everybody is disagreeing.”

Culver said he still supports an in-county location for the new company.

“Me, personally, I’m in favor of Station 13 having the area outside of the Bypass,” Culver said.

Station 13 Chief Corey Polidore said he supports Culver’s position and is satisfied with the explanation of Strausburg’s email.

“I believe the email was misinterpreted. I don’t think Mr. Culver has stopped supporting us. He’s just waiting on letters from different organizations giving their support. Our company is still moving forward,” Polidore said.

Culver needs formal letters of endorsement for Station 13 from the Fire Chiefs Association and the Wicomico County Council, he added.

“After he gets the letters, he’ll have a stance. He doesn’t have the endorsements yet,” Polidore said.

But Day said Tuesday the language in Strausburg’s email, which was forwarded to his office, “unequivocally” means Culver was ready to withdraw support for Station 13.

“And that’s fine. He can change his mind, but just say, ‘I changed my mind,’” Day said.

“We took this e-mail to mean, because it was forwarded to us, that he had come to his senses and didn’t want to spend the time and the money in court being sued,” the mayor said.

Even so, Culver changing his stand on Station 13 wouldn’t change the outcome, since five entities have to agree in order for Station 13 to be given territory – Day, Culver, the City Council, County Council and the Fire Chiefs Association. Day and the City Council have decided against it and the County Council has made it clear it also disagrees with forming another fire service area, Day said.

“This whole thing has been about political pressure, but we’re held to a higher ethical standard,” Day said.

County Council President John Cannon couldn’t be reached for comment.

Several weeks ago, Culver authorized Emergency Services Director David Shipley to give Station 13 territory outside the Bypass, even as Day continued to stand firmly against the city giving up any of its coverage area.

Polidore said officials at the Fire Chiefs Association had originally wanted a larger territory for Station 13, but he requested only the area from the Bypass to the Worcester County border, down Mount Olive Church Road and east to Walston Switch Road.

Geographically, that is more land than the city covers, but it has much less population, Polidore said.

Polidore said that despite comments from City Council members that there is no public outcry for an additional, independent fire department, many people who have attended regular fundraisers for Station 13 have agreed it is needed.

 

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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