Berlin Officials Discuss Fire, EMS Funding

Berlin Officials Discuss Fire, EMS Funding
Representatives of the Berlin Fire Company are pictured in front of the Berlin Town Council Monday. Photo by Charlene Sharpe

BERLIN – Representatives of the Berlin Fire Company told town leaders the funding the municipality is proposing would not get the agency through the year.

“We can’t operate on inadequate funds the entire year,” attorney Joe Moore said.

Moore and David Fitzgerald, president of the Berlin Fire Company and Berlin Emergency Medical Services, met with Mayor Zack Tyndall and the town council on Monday during a work session. While the meeting was set to review proposed fire and EMS contracts, there wasn’t time to complete the process. Elected officials, however, did share some concerns. Councilman Jay Knerr asked Fitzgerald if the reports he typically handed out during his quarterly presentations to the council could be provided the week before. He pointed out that it was a lot of information to digest while Fitzgerald was speaking.

Councilman Dean Burrell said he’d like the reports to feature more financial information.

“We’re up here trying to determine possible funding,” he said.

Tyndall said that the town had asked for the proposed contracts, and the amount of funding being requested, back in February. He said it was more difficult for the town to find funding for the agency at this point in the budget process. The fire company has requested $200,000 in funding while EMS has requested more than $500,000. The town had budgeted about $116,000 for fire and about $283,000 for EMS. A big unknown is the $125,000 grant the town requested from the county for EMS. The county is not planning to fund the grant, according to public budget documents.

“It’s very challenging to go back through and make that change retroactively,” he said.

On the fire company’s part, Fitzgerald asked that the town seek input from the Berlin Fire Company related to proposed developments. He said the county solicited input from emergency responders when its boards reviewed potential development.

Fitzgerald also objected to the concept of an allocation of a certain amount being set aside for the fire company as a whole and then broken into two grants, one for EMS and one for fire.

“The fire company is eventually going to end up with 0 because if you keep lumping it together, the employee cost of the EMS corporation is going to continue to rise …,” he said. “Something’s going to get zeroed out.”

Tyndall said officials would have to find another time to revisit their review of the EMS contract, as there was limited time during Monday’s work session.

Moore assured officials that fire company representatives would be happy to provide whatever information the town needed.

“We stand ready to justify the request,” he said. “It’s not a secret. If we can’t justify it, I can commit they won’t ask for it, because each year we struggle to get through the year.”

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.