FENWICK ISLAND – The Town of Fenwick Island will enter into a new ambulance agreement with the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company.
On Friday, the Fenwick Island Town Council voted unanimously to approve a new agreement with the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company. Mayor Natalie Magdeburger said the agreement will increase ambulance service fees to $60 over the next three years.
“You are taxed every year for an ambulance tax and it’s been $53 for a number of years,” she said. “They wanted to increase it to $75, escalating to $100 over a five-year period. They were very kind in sharing information with us, and we with them, and I believe that they have agreed to accept $60 as the new fee for a three-year period.”
Years ago, the town entered into an agreement with the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company for ambulance services.
With an agreement up for renewal in 2024, the town entered into negotiations.
In an update last Friday, Magdeburger said the town was nearing a new agreement.
She noted it would include an additional charge for anyone who rents.
“So if they are not a resident or an owner of the property, they feel like they want to collect that additional fee above and beyond whatever insurance would pay,” she explained. “And they wanted to have the agreement for three years as opposed to five, so that we can further assess.”
Magdeburger noted, however, that the town had planned for an increase in ambulance services and had included a $60 ambulance fee in the recent tax bill.
She said property owners would not see a change.
“We’ve actually collected $60 from your taxes last season, understanding that that contract was about to expire, and we were likely to have an increase,” she said. “We didn’t know what it would be, but we wanted to make sure we had money in hand. So you’re not going to feel anything different because you got pinched before you even knew it.”
Magdeburger added that the way property owners are charged for ambulance services could change in the coming years, as proposed legislation would give counties the authority to collect such a tax.
“The good news is the state is considering a bill that would cost centralize all the volunteer fire departments to the counties so that the counties will be able to assess a countrywide fire department tax,” she said. “If and when that occurs, then obviously any tax that we’re paying individually as a municipality will become null and void and you get your tax bill from Sussex County as opposed to Fenwick.”
Magdeburger said the state bill was supported by the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company.
“They do spend a lot of money trying to get volunteer payments,” she said. “They rely on the big contracts with us and the other municipalities, but they’d like to have 100% participation and they don’t get that … So I think they would be very much in support of it. At least that’s what they’ve told us.”
After further discussion, the council voted unanimously to move forward with the new agreement.
“They’ve come to a number that we had sort of thought was a fair resolution for everybody concerned,” Magdeburger said.