Council Expected to Consider BFC ARPA request

BERLIN– Town officials are expected to consider a capital funding request from the Berlin Fire Company at the next council meeting.

The Berlin Town Council is expected to consider the Berlin Fire Company (BFC) request to use American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to pay down debt associated with two new fire trucks. While the money was previously intended for self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), a federal grant is now funding that equipment. Elected officials discussed the reallocation at a work session with BFC leadership last week.

“If it was for the SCBA you’d have had the money by now,” Mayor Zack Tyndall said. “That’s what we had the conversation about. We’re not saying we don’t want to give you the money we’re just saying we want to make sure it’s in an agreeable spot.”

The issue was one of several discussed during a work session Dec. 20. Tyndall said he thought a memorandum of understanding (MOU) should be in place before the town provided the BFC with money to put toward its loan for two new pieces of fire apparatus. Councilwoman Shaneka Nichols agreed that an MOU would ensure the town got the use of the apparatus it was helping fund. She indicated she was worried that if a funding arrangement wasn’t agreed upon between the two entities next year, the town might not even be served by the trucks it was helping to purchase.

“At the end of the day our priority is to the health, welfare and safety of this town,” she said.

The town’s attorney said an MOU was not a contract and wasn’t enforceable. He suggested the town just review the BFC’s loan paperwork. The town’s attorney pointed out that in one way or another the town had probably helped pay for all of the BFC’s equipment.

Tyndall reiterated Nichols’ concern.

“If we fund fire apparatus, and we can’t reach an agreement for FY25 what happens to that piece of equipment?” he said.

Other members of the town council said the ARPA funding had always been intended to be used for a capital purchase for the fire company, whether that was breathing gear or a truck

“Mayor I think you’re really complicating this,” Councilman Jay Knerr said.

BFC President David Fitzgerald said he would provide the town with the paperwork to show that the trucks had been ordered and that the bank loan was in place.

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.