I am posting the following letter as a courtesy to the undersigned. This is not an opinion piece from somd.com.

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Dear Residents of 2nd and 9th Districts, St. Mary's County:

This 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.