By Member Chris Scheer
May 31, 2024


All: I apologize for this length of this post; here is the latest update as to where we are in the negotiations for the placement of the temporary trailers to act as living quarters for our personnel while any potential work is done to the Beltsville Volunteer Fire Department, station 31, in order to eliminate potential life safety hazards that may have been found during the recent station assessment.
The Beltsville Volunteer Fire Department was provided with a proposed Station Renovation Agreement (Agreement) by The Prince George's County Fire Department. The leadership of the Beltsville Volunteer Fire Department did not agree to several of the items listed and wanted a more comprehensive agreement to fit our needs. We decided that it was in our best interest not to agree to anything before we were able to review the Station Assessment so that we could make informed decisions for our property based on the scope of work that may, or may not, need to be completed. The station assessment was to be completed on or about April 26, 2024. The County received this report and did not feel that it was complete so they returned it to the vendor and asked for a few items to be added to the final report.

To date, the Beltsville Volunteer Fire Department has not been provided with a copy of this report, preliminary or otherwise, to review.

On May 13, 2024, at the urging of our elected officials and in an attempt to move the negotiation process for the Station Renovation Agreement forward while waiting for the Assessment report, the Beltsville Volunteer Fire Department sent a list of items we'd like to see changed or added to the Agreement. On May 23, 2024 we received a letter from the County's Attorney stating that they would agree to reduce the term of the Agreement from 15 years to 8 years but that "given the nature of work that would need to be done" the Agreement could not be shortened any further. We're not sure how they know the "nature of work that needs to be done" when the assessment has reportedly not been completed yet. Additionally, the letter went on to state that they could not accommodate any of our other requests. This is not what we consider to be a negotiation in good faith, but rather seems more like coercion at best.

Late Tuesday evening, we were informed that the agreement had to be signed by today, May 31, 2024 or the county would move in another direction; again it appears that we are being strong-armed into an agreement that may cause our corporation to be liable for things we are not willing to take responsibility for. Because we have a board of directors that need to meet, discuss, and agree upon anything of this magnitude, we were sure that we could not come to a mutual agreement with the county by today. The attorneys for both the Beltsville VFD and the County FD have been in discussions for the past two days, but as of yet, no agreement has been reached.

To make this situation even more convoluted, the storage facility that the county would like to use and attach by a breezeway to the trailers in order to permanently house apparatus for an unspecified period of time while the trailers are in use, as well as the property the trailers are to be placed on; are governed by a Mandatory Referral approved by the M-MCPPC Planning Board when the storage building was constructed. We have requested on more than one occasion to see the permits, or applications for the permits, from the county because we can find no evidence of this on the County's website. The Beltsville Volunteer Fire Department has asked for indemnification from the County Fire Department for this issue so that the possibility of being charged with violating the land use approval of the Mandatory Referral Agreement does not fall on our shoulders, our understanding is that the County will not agree to this. This causes concern to the Leadership of the Beltsville VFD.

So with all of this said, we seem to be going nowhere fast. Please know that we have appreciated your support for keeping our career personnel at the station and for having a safe environment for both our career and volunteer personnel throughout this whole process with the County Fire Department. The time may come again soon that we will need to gather and show the strength of our community. Thank you all for your continued interest and support.