BERLIN — With the presentation of the proposed Berlin Fire Company budget by David Fitzgerald, President of the Berlin Fire Company, the Town of Berlin is prepared to adopt its $13.5 million fiscal 2013 budget after a public hearing May 29.
Fitzgerald told the Mayor and Council that, at their request, the Company was able to keep their expenses in line with fiscal year 2012 and fiscal year 2011 budget numbers for both the fire and EMS sides of the operation but he pointed out some of the difficulties with continuing to maintain low operating costs.
“We’d like to compliment Mr. [Michael] Day, he’s bringing a lot of things into Town,” he said. “But it is a stretch on services.”
Day is the Director of Community and Economic Development and generally considered one of those primarily responsible for the Town’s economic growth over the last few years.
Providing the services to support that growth is something about which the BFC prides itself as they work to rely as much as they can on volunteers, although the BFC retains a paid staff.
Balancing the need to provide the kinds of services necessary to a busy rural Town with the volunteerism that has kept the BFC as one of the more active volunteer companies in the region was difficult in the recent past as membership flagged a bit.
This year, however, Fitzgerald told the Mayor and Council that the company had succeeded in recruiting several new members. While new volunteers are obviously less expensive than hiring full-time responders and paying for their benefit and training, volunteers don’t come without some start-up costs.
Fitzgerald said it cost about $3,500 per new volunteer to make sure they are properly equipped.
It is a cost that could very well continue to rise as the technology and the requirements available and needed to run a fire company continue to increase.
These expenses go beyond personnel equipment and training. One of the additional expenses the company expects in 2013 has to do with communications as they prepare to upgrade some of the radios that are becoming obsolete and the emergency pagers, which require upgrades because of regulations.
“The Federal Communications Commission has a change coming in 2013, so the [Worcester County Director of Emergency Management Teresa Owens] is recommending we change some of our models,” he said.
Fitzgerald told the Mayor and Council that the BFC would likely continue to experience increased calls as the various senior living complexes around town near completion and begin accepting residents.
He also noted that the pressures of responding to calls at the Casino at Ocean Downs appear to increase annually.
The BFC should be able to receive additional funding from the Casino fund as their calls increase.
The proposed $13.5 million budget represents a one percent cut across Town staff-run departments and a slight reduction in property taxes.