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


OP Fire Dept. meets with directors over 2016 budget

(Feb. 12, 2015) Concerned about increases in the 2016 fiscal year budget request, the Ocean Pines Board of Directors met with officials from the community’s Fire/EMS department last Wednesday.
Fire/ EMS Deputy Chief Bill Bounds and Fire Department President Dan Healy briefed the directors about the jump in numbers, up more than $200,000 over the prior year.
“A common question is why,” Board President Dave Stevens said. “Revenues you are expecting to go down and operating expenses are expected to go up … a lot, actually. And that’s about the sum total of what this board knows from your request.”
In 2015, the department requested $283,225 in funding from the OPA. The 2016 number jumped to $485,321.
County funding projections, meanwhile, fell from $620,498 in 2015 to $536,301 in 2016.
Part of the decrease from the county was because of a one-time $35,000 increase in funding last year to pay for new communications equipment. Also included in that equation is an estimated $12,000 decrease in EMS revenue tied to a drop in transports to Atlantic General Hospital.
According to Bounds, the majority of the increase was because of a rise in salary requests triggered by an increase in second-run calls, or calls to the department made while another unit is dispatched.
Roughly one in four calls in Ocean Pines qualify as second calls.
“That portion of our responses has increased to where we’ve had to add more staff to be able to answer those calls for service,” Bounds said. “We want to make sure that, besides providing a service to the community, we’re also looking out for our people that are taking care of these responses.”
Currently the department staffs 12 full-time employees and 10 part-time employees.
Bounds said the company tries to abide by National Fire Protection Association standards, including the “two in, two out rule.”
“In order for two people to go in and fight a fire or put themselves in a dangerous position, there’s got to be two people outside that are a safety net,” he said. “That puts four people that you have to put on a scene to be able to effectively mitigate that.
“It’s a benefit to our own safety as well as to the citizen’s safety,” Bounds added.
With an average of three employees working a shift together, not counting volunteers, the department uses a minimum-staffing standard of two ALS, or paramedic-level EMS technicians, and one BLS, or basic-level technician.
The department also follows NFPA standards on efficiency, with a goal of “putting an ambulance on the scene anywhere in Ocean Pines” within four minutes.
“We put an ALS ambulance on the scene in Ocean Pines in four minutes or less in excess of 90 percent of the time,” Bounds said.
With an approximate $24 hike in resident dues tied to the increased funding request, Director Sharyn O’Hare asked if there was any room for compromise in the budget.
“I don’t want to say there’s never room for compromise, but when I tell from what our original request was going to be to what it is now, we went line-for-line and there is nothing here that was untouched,” Bounds said.
Bounds said the department tried to “slowly move” into the increase “so that it wasn’t such a shock to the budget.”
“This isn’t just something we just decided,” Bounds said, adding that the proposed budget dramatically slashed funding for training, down from $19,000 during the previous year to approximately $5,500 in the next fiscal year.
“One thing I never thought I would do is cut training.” He said. “In this budget there is the bare minimum of training left. When I say that there is no meat left on the bone, there is no meat left on the bone.”
Stevens requested additional information before making a decision.
“I’d like to take the difference between this year and last year … and I’d like to see what the major changes are,” he said. “We don’t have anything broken down.
Parliamentarian Tom Terry, meanwhile, praised the department.
“It makes our community different,” he said. “It makes it a better place to live.”
“The one downside to that is that’s one of the reasons we need [additional staff],” Bounds said. “We want to work with you, not against you. It’s always been a hand-in-hand relationship and I hope that continues.”
“Our ultimate goal is to provide the best EMS [and] fire protection in the county for our residents,” Healy said. “I think we’re doing that.”
Following the meeting, Stevens lamented that the “excellent presentation” was not heard by the community.
“I wish more people in Ocean Pines could have heard it,” he said. “It was a quiet meeting, which is what I was hoping for, and it was one of those cases where I was pretty much able let the rest of the board take the lead and ask the questions and just sit back and listen and learn some things. I thought that part of it went very well.”
Stevens had yet to see a specific breakdown from the department, but said he was asking and hoping for more information.
On the issue of training, Stevens said he was unsure if the board would move to increase funding.
“They have to make and decide where to go,” he said. “It’s a fact that they made a substantial request for an increase [in overall funding]. They made their case for doing it and they regretted having to cut out some other things, but that’s standard when you do a budget. You have to make choices.
“I think training is obviously important, but it also sounds like they have training fairly well in hand using in-house personnel,” Stevens added.