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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Berlin hears fire funding request

(May 21, 2015) It hasn’t always been easy, but things seemed to go smoothly Monday night between Berlin town officials and the town fire company, as the mayor and council heard budget requests for fire and EMS for the fiscal year 2016 budget.
The fire company requested a $373,000 grant from the town, just over 44 percent of its proposed 2016 budget of $837,750. The department is expecting a $400,000 grant from the county.
EMS asked for a $290,000 grant from the town, 22.77 percent of its budget. The division expects an additional $635,500 from the county, roughly half of its $1.2 million budget.
The budget work session was the town’s third and final draft review before an expected public unveiling during a council meeting on May 26. The mayor and council, along with department heads, met on April 20 to discuss the general fund, and again on May 4 to discuss utilities.
According to Fire Company President David Fitzgerald, the department has 20 active members and 60 volunteers who totaled more than 15,000 hours of service during the previous fiscal year.
Of county money, Fitzgerald said the county commissioners use a flat formula for all area municipalities of $225,000 annually, plus an additional $1,000 for each “out of town” service call.
Berlin approved $200,000 in funding for the fire company during the two previous fiscal years. The increase this year, according to Fitzgerald, was largely due to aging equipment.
Fitzgerald said the average age of fire apparatus in Berlin is 18 years. Two open cab trucks, including a 1977 Mack Ladder 6, are in need of replacement.
“The fire department responders who are sitting in the rear do not have doors, so they’re up there in the open. God forbid we have an accident – they would probably be ejected,” Fitzgerald said.
According to a revenue sheet distributed Monday evening, the fire company has a contingency fund of $150,000, as well as a headquarters building fund of $150,062.88 and a “Station 3 Building Fund” of just over $1 million.
Currently, the department is using a small, rented building as a temporary station three. With town expansion, including a new in-development townhome complex in the vicinity, the company is hoping to raise $2 million in total to pay for a new station.
A funding solution for the building was not discussed in detail during the meeting.
The majority of the EMS budget request, just over $ 1 million, would be delegated to career personnel, according to a budget sheet.
EMS has slots for 11 full-time positions. Three are currently vacant, two of which are partially filled by part-time employees.
The EMS budget request also includes $100,000 for a replacement ambulance fund.
Berlin Mayor Gee Williams praised Fitzgerald, calling the presentation, “very thorough.”
“I think we got more out of the presentation than any one we’ve ever had in the past,” he said.
The mayor did, however, request that fire and EMS deliver future budget requests earlier in the year.
“Our internal budget process really gets rolling in February, and then by March a lot of the internal [work] is done. If there’s a way, working together, we can get this information earlier … we’re talking about the two biggest line items in the budget,” he said. “It would be another step forward, next year, if we [get to] this point earlier in the process.”