Town Comingles Money with Local Fire Department
The media bombards society with so many different items, it is difficult for citizens to be involved in every level of Government. It is even harder when local government does not place a priority on ease of access for information. Myersville, which is located in Frederick County, is a rural sleepy Town of roughly 1600 people whose budget is roughly $1 million a year. Many of the residents have lived here for 10, 15, 20 years and we are very much a front porch type of Town. In a quiet Town like ours, Citizens put their trust in the neighborly Mayor and Council.
Recently, past events of the Mayor and Council are starting to surface. Multi-million dollar handshake agreements results in million dollar losses, lifetime benefits for a single employee, millions of dollars of debt, and seemingly anti-transparency policies all run rampant while the cat sleeps.
Town Officials who were also concurrently serving as Officials of the Myersville Volunteer Fire Company structured a $6 million handshake deal. For 6 years the Town of Myersville never put in a formal agreement assigning responsibility of the deal. What’s worse, is that the deal stated the Town would be on the hook for the mortgage, but the MVFC would own the building. If the MVFC defaulted, the Town would be on the hook with no claim to the building. Guess what happened? The MVFC is now behind around $1 million, but since there was no legal agreement in place the Town can only say that MVFC is behind $360,000. Even though audits states $360,000 the Town of Myersville has paid the entire bill. The Mayor and Council still think there was nothing wrong with the deal, and it was good for the community.
Tax returns obtained for the MVFC for show a grim picture of an organization that is on its last breath. Even as the deal was being struck the financial picture of the MVFC was not good. Many years of losses or slim profits have been the norm for the organization.
Officers of the organization refuse to provide even the most basic documents, such as member roles and monthly treasurer reports, to operational staff which resulted in the resigning of the Fire Chief.
The architect of the deal, who has served in various roles ranging from Town Manager to Town Treasurer as well as President of the MVFC, was granted lifetime benefits recorded to cost over $370,000 as of FY 2014 by the Town. No other employee was offered the benefit.
With duel serving Officials, it seems that the MVFC Officials and the Town Officials (the same) were treating the Town budget as their own personal piggy bank.
With the Town bleeding cash, debt rising, and the need for new revenue an unexpected savior would move to the Town in the form of a natural gas compressor station. Dominion Transmission Inc (DTI) although unwelcomed by the Town, filed a law suit in which the Town would lose that would allow DTI to build a new natural gas compressor station. The result: $600,000 in new tax revenue. This new revenue would come as a saving grace to the Mayor and Council in preventing them from having to raise taxes and exposing their bad decisions.