Berlin Council Approves Fire, EMS Contracts

Berlin Council Approves Fire, EMS Contracts
Officials with the Berlin Fire Company are pictured at Monday's Berlin Town Council meeting. Photo by Charlene Sharpe

BERLIN – Contracts for fire and EMS services are now under review by Berlin Fire Company officials after being approved by the Berlin Town Council this week.

The council on Monday approved contracts for fire and EMS service. Fire company officials, however, have expressed concern regarding the contract amounts, as the town is not providing the fire company with the level of funding requested.

“Year after year we’re running on fumes,” Fire Chief RJ Rhode said. “We need help.”

Council members approved contracts with the Berlin Fire Company (BFC) for both fire and EMS service during Monday night’s council meeting, which followed a work session set up to discuss the contracts.

Mayor Zack Tyndall noted that the contract review process had started in February but that the fire company had only provided their proposed changes 30 days ago.

“What we all wanted to do was not have this process up against our budget adoption, which is where we’re at,” he said.

Tyndall pointed out that the version of the contract the town had up for approval did not include the contract figures the BFC wanted. The fire company requested more than $381,000 for EMS and $200,000 for fire. The contract has the town providing about $116,000 for fire and $283,000 for EMS.

Councilman Dean Burrell said he wanted to make sure the contracts allowed for public discussions between the two parties. Tyndall agreed.

“This is the largest grant the town administers,” he said. “I also believe for that reason it should be a public conversation.”

Burrell also brought up the issue of notification to the fire company regarding proposed development projects in town. He said he wanted to make sure that was done in a manner that would not hinder the operations of the Berlin Planning Commission, which has site plan approval for those types of projects.

Planning Director Dave Engelhart said he’d been in communication with fire company officials and didn’t expect the timing to be a problem.

Rhode and BFC President David Fitzgerald, who arrived midway through the work session, were advised of the difference in amounts. Councilman Steve Green asked if the council needed to have a conversation regarding the length of the contract, as the BFC had indicated previously that with only $116,000 in fire funding the agency would only be able to provide fire service through January.

“That’s just the way the math works,” Fitzgerald said, adding that town officials could revisit the issue in the fall once the current fiscal year was over.

Fitzgerald added that while he could confirm that the proposed fire funding wouldn’t last the BFC all year, he said he wouldn’t say the same about EMS because of the personnel involved.

“We can’t get people to apply,” he said. “We’ve had one person leave. We may have another leave. They won’t come to work for us because we’re going to run out of money. That’s why that option was not put out for EMS.”

Tyndall said he didn’t recommend the council revisit the BFC fire funding in the fall because the town’s revenues were primarily tied to the tax rate, which has already been set.

Fitzgerald said that in the fall, the town would know how much surplus it ended the current fiscal year with and could potentially use that for funding.

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.