Berlin Fire Company Requests $477K More In Town Grants; Four New Full-Time Hires Needed

Berlin Fire Company Requests $477K More In Town Grants; Four New Full-Time Hires Needed
The Berlin Fire Company headquarters is pictured on N. Main Street. Photo by Chris Parypa

BERLIN – The Berlin Fire Company is asking the Town of Berlin to more than double its annual grant to the agency.

On Monday, Berlin Fire Company (BFC) President David Fitzgerald presented the Berlin Town Council with a request for roughly $477,000 in additional emergency medical services (EMS) funding and an additional $84,715 in fire and rescue funding. The increased funding would allow the BFC to expand its EMS staff and continue to provide fire and rescue service.

Council members said they wanted to see more financial information as they considered the request.

“There’s no question the fire company provides an extremely valuable service to the town and the surrounding area,” Councilman Jay Knerr said. “That said, you’re asking for a lot of money here over what we previously have given you.”

Fitzgerald on Monday highlighted the service the BFC provides to the town, as 57% of the company’s EMS calls and 43% of its fire calls come from within town limits. The company received $400,000 from the town last year — with $234,715 going to EMS and $165,285 going to fire — but Fitzgerald said this year the BFC needed additional funding. He said an extra $385,492 for EMS would allow the BFC to expand its staffing. Currently, there are three people on an EMS shift. That means when there’s an emergency, two of them respond. If a second emergency occurs while they’re out, the third staff member has to wait for a volunteer before they can respond to the call.

“If we don’t get a volunteer to respond in three minutes another company is alerted,” Fitzgerald said.

He said the company wanted to have four people on each shift, which would require the current team of 12 full-time staff to be increased to 16 full-time staff.

The other EMS cost mentioned by Fitzgerald was the need to replace cardiac monitors, which would cost $91,535.

Regarding the fire and rescue grant, Fitzgerald said BFC was requesting an additional $84,715 for operations.

When asked if the agency had applied for any PPP funds, Fitzgerald said the BFC was in the process of doing so.

“We are in the process with Bank of Ocean City in applying for those,” he said. “The first time we inquired and for whatever reason they said we weren’t eligible. This round, they’re telling us we’re eligible.”

Natalie Saleh, the town’s finance director, said the requirements hadn’t changed regarding the funding and suggested the BFC definitely apply.

Knerr asked the agency to supply the town its recent tax returns as well as some profit-and-loss statements.

“We answer to the residents so I’m asking this because I think we’re obligated to have this information so we can make educated decisions,” he said.

Mayor Zack Tyndall asked Fitzgerald how the BFC wanted the grant split between fire and EMS if the company received the same $400,000 it received last year.

Fitzgerald said the split was done at the town’s discretion.

“It’s my understanding that last year you were sent an email saying you had this amount of money how would you like that split,” Tyndall replied. “Is that not accurate?”

Fitzgerald said he’d have to look it up but said he would talk to the rest of the BFC regarding the breakdown of funding.

“We’ll talk to our board and our membership and our attorney and accountant and get back to you,” he said.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.