Letter to the Editor – Residents of 2nd and 9th Districts, St. Mary’s County:

December 23, 2015

letter-envelope-clip-artThis past year has been a very unique one for our times. Our economy is still not as robust as it should be; our country is experiencing terrorist attacks on our homeland, our political climate is unsettled with an upcoming presidential election and our local VFD/EMS serving the 2nd and 9th Districts is once again trying to raise your taxes for a new building that is not needed. The existing facility which is 60 years old is their justification although a study conducted in 2014 stated the building was structurally sound. The tax increase request happened last fall and winter until a coalition of citizens challenged them enough that they pulled the proposal before going to the St. Mary’s County Board of Commissioners.

In December of 2014 after several months of internal debating and meeting, our VFD/EMS tried to raise our local Fire and EMS taxes to the maximum extent possible without notifying the citizens of their intent. This was done in spite of a large majority of the VFD/EMS membership that was against the proposal. Once the word got out to the general public of their intentions, opposition to the proposed tax increase grew dramatically within the community.

At a public forum on Feb 9th, 2015, several citizens raised concerns over why the station was required and the need to raise the taxes to highest amount possible. During this public forum several issues were raised by the citizens. A question was asked about involving State Fire Marshall and County Emergency Services concerning the perceived unsafe state of the station. The response from committee: No they were not. A question was asked about repairs falling under current O&M budget. The response from the committee: Minimal maintenance was completed because we knew we needed a new station. The public commented back: If you own a house you fix it. Why would we pay for a new station when you did not take care of this one? A question was asked what road improvements would be required. The response from committee: We do not know. A question was asked about what projected “growth rate” within the district was used to justify the need for a new station in the same location since call rates have gone down. The response from committee: None and call rates are down after a change within the county for dispatching Fire/EMS. To date, we are unaware of further investigations by the committee addressing these questions.

That public forum was conducted a week before the VFD/EMS and public were to meet with the county commissioners. The day after the Feb 9th forum, the VFD/EMS membership withdrew the proposed tax increase.
There is still not any evidence that the new Fire/EMS Station will bring improvements to response times, impact the number of calls answered and the fact the amount of money being requested did not cover 100% of what they said is required. The current proposal of a new station is still in question and is under a requirements review.

The SDVFDRS community fall newsletter of 2015 which has an article regarding “Building for the Future” which says a public forum will be held once a proposed plan is in place. So the question is why another tax increase is being proposed now instead of getting community input prior to a proposed plan that is still unstable and will not meet the community needs.

We are not asking you to oppose or agree with the requested tax increase and/or the need for a new Fire/EMS Station. We are just urging you to stay engaged, become involved, attend the public forums to listen and ask questions. We are telling you about this so you know where your money will be spent, especially in these trying fiscal times. You may be reading this and thinking “why do I care I can handle a tax increase” however, what about the families that are living on a fixed income that cannot. Especially if the money being asked for does not have a clear plan on how it is spent and what improvements to emergency services it will bring to the 2nd and 9th districts.

Again, we ask for your involvement to ensure your tax dollars are being wisely spent.
We wish you Happy Holidays and a safe new year. We look forward to seeing you at any public meetings/forums concerning this matter.

Signed
Concerned Citizens of the 2nd and 9th Districts, Valley Lee, Md.

8 Responses to Letter to the Editor – Residents of 2nd and 9th Districts, St. Mary’s County:

  1. Money to burn on December 23, 2015 at 8:56 am

    I’m sorry, but the economy is very robust, stop drinking the conservative kool aid.

    • anon on December 23, 2015 at 11:14 am

      ^ yea, that.

  2. Anonymous on December 23, 2015 at 11:32 am

    don’t like letters that are not signed……

  3. Not a happy resident on December 23, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    ” There is still not any evidence that the new Fire/EMS Station will bring improvements to response times, impact the number of calls answered and the fact the amount of money being requested did not cover 100% of what they said is required.”
    -New buildings don’t answer calls.
    -New buildings don’ recruit new members.
    -What is ratio of fire to medical assist calls?
    -How many calls go unanswered,and require a Lexington Park ambulance to come to the 2nd and 9th areas to help?
    -How many active members do they have answering calls on a regular basis?
    -Why are they the only combined Fire+ EMS organization in St. Mary’s county? What purpose does that serve? Certainly ambulances cost less than a fire truck. Why not a separate Rescue squad?

    Perhaps an independent, outside audit of the SDVFDRS finances are in order before any consideration of raising the existing taxes. The audit should be published and available on line for review.
    -How much of the tax payers funds do they currently maintain in reserve?
    -What do they spend the tax money they receive on?
    -Operating expenses vs. revenue received. What happens to the funds if they are not spent by years end?
    -Has the SDVFDRS looked into FEMA grants for a new building? There are articles on the web that detail various Fire Departments receiving FEMA grants for equipment, training, etc. Are their grants available for buildings? I would suspect there are.

    From the information in the above letter, it would appear that the SDVFDRS leadership wants a new building, solely for the sake of a new building. Not fixing the current building, not being able to fully explain what the benefit to the tax payers of the 2nd and 9th districts would be, the membership itself not wanting the building, all point to a “pet project” that is not needed, and whose cost should not be shouldered by the residents of the 2nd and 9th election districts

  4. LH on December 23, 2015 at 8:36 pm

    Sounds to me like “concerned citizen” is a person that was removed from the department due to a problem they caused and is now not happy. I think this person should post their name so everyone can see for themselves if this is the case.

    What difference does it make if this is the only combined station in the county? As a matter of fact this being a combined station is a benefit to the members and the public since we do combined drills and work together better than most stations that dont know the members from the other stations. As for how many calls go unanswered, the person writing the response above may want to come down and join since they think that Lexington Park has to come to a lot of the calls. I dont know about most people but I for one work all day at a regular job and then take MY free time to VOLUNTEER to help take care of the citizens of the 2nd and 9th district. If you are going to get on a public forum and talk about calls then I suggest you take a Wednesday night and go to one of the drills and see what you can do to help.

    FEMA grants: SDVFDRS is ALWAYS putting in for grants, and it takes quite a bit of time for someone to do the grant writing, once again, if you think you can possibly help in this area, then feel free to offer to help, I am sure it would be greatly appreciated.

    Tax money goes to numerous items, from EMS supplies to gear to equipment, it all depends on what is needed at the time. We do a budget every year and budget items out for years in the future. Once again, join the department and you will see what it takes to run a volunteer station and how much money is involved.

    As for the new station, we have apparatus that sits outside due to the station not being big enough to house it all. The station is 60 years old and apparatus has changed quite a bit since then, especially in size. We have trucks and ambulances jammed into a building that was designed for apparatus that was much smaller. We have a hall that can only hold a small amount of people which is another way we make money to foot the bills, we cannot compete with the larger halls and we lose money in the process. I could go on and on about needing a new station but unless you come down and see for yourselves then it wont make much difference.

    The one letter above makes it sound like the station we have is not taken care of which is totally not true, the station IS taken care of regularly and the improvements we were not doing was to the kitchen and hall because the membership had not decided on a new station yet.

    This “concerned citizen” is making it sould like the taxes would go up to a point where it would be a major impact on the 2nd and 9th district and this is just not the case. I suggest “concerned citizen” should get all of that information and put it out there so people can see what the real impact is and then let them decide for themselves.

    No one wants a building solely for the sake of a new building, thats ridiculous to suggest, and people are free to come down to the station anytime we have a drill or meeting and see for themselves what is needed and how they can help.

    I am a member of the station and citizen of the 2nd district. These men and women risk thier lives to help others in a time of need and only want to take care of the members and equipment we use each day to do this. If it takes a new station to take care of our members and equipment then I dont think that is too much to ask.

  5. Anonymous on December 23, 2015 at 9:26 pm

    How about instead of complaining about their response times and rates, you go pick up an application and help the cause. Instead of being a nay sayer.

    Just my thoughts.

  6. Kelly on December 24, 2015 at 2:24 am

    I agree, I would hope rhe financial statements would be available for public view, at the next meeting. I’ve been to the fire house many times and don’t see why a new building is needed, and from what I’ve heard there will not be a new hall in the proposed new building, which will take away money that is generated from the publics use. I’m sure the money would be better spent on remodeling of the existing structure. I ask why if calls are declining why an elaborate new building is needed. Taxes are high enough in the county without wasting money on a new building that is clearly not needed. The community does not want it. I ask why it’s being forced down our throat by a few?

  7. Money on December 24, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    It’s simple- they want a new building to make money like Hollywood and Bay District- and they want the tax payers to foot the bill.