Berlin Fire, EMS Report Drop In Annual Donations

BERLIN – Donations to the Berlin Volunteer Fire Company and Ambulance Company are down, but fire company leaders expect a small increase in Worcester County funding for both services and have requested more funds from Berlin for emergency medical in their fiscal year 2009 budget (FY09).

The major expense coming up for the fire company is the replacement of a 20-year-old tanker truck that has become unsafe, said David Fitzgerald, president of the Berlin Fire Company. The fire company also “desperately needs” a pole barn building for storage.

“We’re finding that our donations are not coming in,” said Fitzgerald. “These are general donations where people just send money.”

Pledges of $1,000 to the town’s volunteer firefighters have dropped by $5,000, while memorial donations have also decreased.

The company is concerned about its annual fund drive, but Fitzgerald noted that revenue could increase with new fundraisers.

The fire company should see a small increase in the grant awarded to it every year by Worcester County, which is based on a percentage of assessment increases and from pass through funds for answering calls outside town limits.

Aid from the state of Maryland will not change. “The state did not cut that in their budget,” Fitzgerald said.

The firefighters do not want an increase in town funding, just the same amount as last year.

Capital funding will be put aside for building repairs to the 43-year-old fire station on Main St., including window replacement and roof work.

The fire company must replace the tanker truck, which could cost as much as $400,000.

“It has some safety issues we are concerned about. It was in the budget last year but we had to be fiscally responsible,” said Fitzgerald. “We won’t spend more than we bring in.”

A grant could defray the costs of that new truck if the application is successful.

The fire company also expects the costs of health insurance and fuel to go up in FY09 as well as the cost of training.

The firefighters are trying to reduce costs, Fitzgerald said, pointing to a $4,500 savings on the volunteer firefighter recognition banquet. The fire company must retain and recruit volunteers, he said.

“We are growing leaps and bounds not only in the town of Berlin but outside,” said Fitzgerald. “It benefits the town, the more volunteers we can get.”

Only 48 percent of fire calls originate in Berlin, with the rest outside the town boundaries. The company averages a call a day.

The Emergency Medical Service provided by the Berlin Fire Company is also seeing a drop in donations, with a sharp decline of 50 percent reported this year, and the service is asking for more money from Berlin in the next budget.

“We are asking for an increase of $50,000,” said Fitzgerald.

The medical service needs to add a supervisor to coordinate its eight employees, he said.

Like the rest of Berlin, the company would like its employees to get a 7-percent pay raise this year, 4 percent for cost of living and 3 percent for step increases.

The budget includes fuel and oxygen cost increases

Berlin EMS expects a revenue increase of about $100,000, Fitzgerald said.

The service handled 1,661 calls last year, 56 percent in Berlin’s limits. About 100 to 150 calls come from Gull Creek senior living each year, and over 300 from the nursing home, prompting Fitzgerald to mention his concern that the senior living community planned for the Davis-Taylor Farms property could seriously increase calls for service.