Salisbury rejects county’s fire district request

The Salisbury City Council this week agreed to send a letter to County Executive Bob Culver refusing to allow the area around the bypass to become a new fire service area, a move Corey Polidore, president of the newly formed Station 13, said could mean a court battle.

At a City Council work session on Monday, Mayor Jake Day reviewed correspondence with Culver and explained Culver’s desire to form a new area.

Councilman Jim Ireton suggested the City Council write a letter saying the City doesn’t want it.  Day said any change to the fire service territory would have to be approved by the City, County and Maryland Fire Chiefs Association.

City Council Vice President Muir Boda, presiding over the work session in President Jack Heath’s absence, said as far as he knows, “there is no outcry from the residents that they want changes and I don’t see any need for change.”

Heath, participating by conference call, said a letter should be sent to Culver simply stating the City will continue to abide by the current agreement.

Culver was in meetings on Tuesday morning and couldn’t be reached for comment, but an e-mail from Lisa Taylor in his office stated he felt “it would be premature to comment as he has not received the correspondence from the City of Salisbury.”

Several weeks ago, Culver authorized David Shipley, director of Emergency Services for the county, to give Station 13 land outside the Salisbury bypass. Culver said he wanted to clarify a designated territory.  Day, though, stood firm against the City giving up any of its coverage area.

Culver issued a news release complaining that Day told the press fire service boundaries hadn’t changed, even though the mayor had earlier said he was willing to have the City give up part of the territory covered by the City’s Station 1.

In that news release, Culver said he was deeply disappointed in Day’s “attempt to renege on a deal I considered to be a closed matter.”

He said the statement has caused citizens, and Culver, to become confused.

Polidore said the Fire Chiefs Association doesn’t agree with the City, concerning the service area.

Originally, officials at that Association wanted a larger territory for Station 13, he said, but Polidore requested only the area from the bypass to the Worcester County border, down Mount Olive Road and east to Walston Switch Road.

Geographically, that is more land than the City covers, but it has much less population, Polidore told the Salisbury Independent.

“There are a lot of people not revealing the truth. (County Council President) John Cannon is saying one thing then telling Jake something else.

“Did Jake say it? Well, we have the maps and there were other people there who saw it. It think there are back door political deals. The Fire Chiefs Association could take it to court. I think we’ll end up in court,” Polidore said.

Polidore called on the county to “figure something out.”

“How do they want to use these resources that we are making available to them? If they don’t need help, they better come out and say so. And if they say they don’t need it, they better hope they never need the help in the future because it will come back to bite them,” Polidore said.

Volunteers who formed Station 13 are continuing to move forward and are settled at 800 Snow Hill Road, where barbecued chicken and bingo fundraisers are regularly held, Polidore said.

Despite comments from City Council members that there is no public outcry for an additional, independent fire department, many people attend the fundraisers and insist they are needed, Polidore said.

He questioned City Council members’ behavior at the work session and Boda saying he doesn’t try to figure out “what happens down the hall” where county offices are. There was bantering about who would write the letter to Culver and deliver it, with Boda joking they would ask Heath to put his signature last, so he could “walk it down the hall.”

“That really shows the maturity of the City Council members. It was really unprofessional. The voters should look at who they are electing,” Polidore said.

City Council decided to write to Culver during Monday’s work session after Day gave each Council member documents that he said will “help to tell the story,” including a resolution, April 25 letter from the county, April 25 e-mail that Day sent, July 5 news release and letter from Cannon to Culver.

Day read a letter from Culver that confirmed the agreement between Culver and him and outlined the service area.

Day’s response was an e-mail sent to Weston Young, assistant county administrator, saying there were more details to be determined, including that the new fire company provide satisfactory service. The letter references the territory map and includes Day’s concerns.

Meantime, Mike Dunn, CEO of the Greater Salisbury Committee, and Bill Chambers, CEO of the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce, wrote a letter supporting the City Council’s decision not to create a new fire service district.

“We believe that this should – once and for all – put an end to any and all discussions to create a new fire service district. The district was being created to give the newly established volunteer Station 13 – which consists mainly of disgruntled former members of Salisbury Station 1 volunteers – a place to fight fires. We believe the action taken by the City Council is appropriate,” the letter states.

“We simply cannot support County Executive Culver’s request for this new fire district. We urge the Wicomico County Council to follow the lead of the Salisbury City Council – and say no to Culver’s request. We don’t believe that this community is in a position to expend $300,000 – the estimated cost that the County would contribute to the new Station 13 – on a fire company or a fire district that is not needed,” it states.

 

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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