Tri County Commissioners Reach Consensus on Mutual Aid, CSM Budget Bill



Calvert Public Safety Director Jacqueline Vaughn, Charles EMS Chief John Filer and St. Mary’s Emergency Services Director Steve Walker supported continuing the mutual aid agreement between the three counties. (Photo: The County Times) Calvert Public Safety Director Jacqueline Vaughn, Charles EMS Chief John Filer and St. Mary’s Emergency Services Director Steve Walker supported continuing the mutual aid agreement between the three counties. (Photo: The County Times)

HOLLYWOOD, Md. (Dec. 12, 2019)—Members of all three Southern Maryland county commissioner boards met Tuesday afternoon and came to an agreement, at least initially, on supporting a key piece of legislation that would unify the budget of the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) and, in the case of emergency services, renew the mutual aid agreement between Calvert, St. Mary's and Charles counties.

Commissioners met at the Prince Frederick CSM campus.

Currently the College of Southern Maryland may only spend operating funds in the county which initially provided those funds; each county provides a share of funding to the college's operating budget each year.

Changes to allow the budget to be unified, and thus more flexible, would require leg-islative changes in the General Assembly; commissioners from the three counties came to a tentative agreement that a memorandum of understanding had to be finalized before the legislation could move forward to receive their final support.

Reuben Collins II, Charles County commissioner president, said the three counties also needed to come to an agreement on ensuring equitable funding for CSM campuses to include numbers of students in attendance.

Under the proposed changes to the law for CSM budgeting, each county commissioner board would review and then approve the budget for the entire college, instead of the single campus in their county.

"It will take a great deal of time to flesh that out," Collins said of the work ahead to change the law.

County leaders from Calvert, Charles and St. Marys' also agreed that the mutual aid system they share for fire and emergency medical response should be renewed, though upon review of the current aid agreement they found that language had to be standardized in the text before making a final vote in support.

Data presented to the commissioners by Steve Walker, director of emergency services in St. Mary's County, showed St. Mary's was receiving more mutual aid from both Charles and Calvert counties than it was providing.

In prior years the roles had been reversed, noted Calvert public safety director Jacqueline Vaughn.

"[The mutual aid agreements] do need to continue," Vaughn told Southern Maryland leaders. "The tides have turned… but it does come in cycles."

For 2019, data showed that Calvert responded to 103 fire calls in St. Mary's, while St. Mary's aided in 72 fire incidents across the Patuxent River. Also, St. Mary's aided in 337 medical calls but received aid from Calvert for 499 such emergencies.

Charles County responded to St. Mary's 724 times for EMS calls, while receiving aid in just 47 such calls from St. Mary's, the data showed.

"I believe our BLS and ALS (basic life support and advanced life support) are at a critical mass," said St. Mary's commissioner John O'Connor. "At some point Charles County is going to say 'We've had enough.'"

Charles County's EMS Chief John Filer said the mutual aid should continue.

"In Southern Maryland we all get along," Filer said. "I would not recommend cutting off mutual aid.

"We should all help when we can."

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