Perryville fire company asks for $105K to run career services program

The Community Fire Company of Perryville is asking for $105,000 from the town for its career services program of paid full-time staff.

Dale DeWeese, the company's treasurer, spoke on behalf of the fire company during the town's work session July 24.

In March, the fire company first approached the mayor and board of commissioners asking for financial support so it could hire full-time employees.

When the program began in October with two full-time employees working 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. shifts, the fire company said, the response rate increased to 88 percent through the rest of the year and dropped calls decreased to 12 percent.

The company hopes to move to four employees working 12-hour shifts and offer a benefits package.

"The bottom line is they need about $105,000 to run a full-time EMS [service]," Town Administrator Denise Breder told the commissioners.

She added that the town did give the company $35,000, which was budgeted for fiscal year 2012, and they also received a $25,000 grant through the town's 501(C)3 grant process.

DeWeese explained it costs about $305,000 to run the program each year and the company received about $200,000 through its insurance company, so the additional $105,000 needs to come from somewhere.

Last year, he continued, the company's income was roughly $1.1 million and expenses were a little less than $1,050,000, so there was net revenue of about $70,000.

"It's cutting it pretty darn close," DeWeese said regarding paying for the 24/7 EMS employees.

The fire company has hired two people to be paid EMS employees, but do not receive any benefits. The company is worried about losing those two employees, he said, because of the lack of benefits.

"We, as a board, said [we] have to bite the bullet to keep these people," DeWeese said.

He stressed that the company is "appreciative of whatever you're going to [give]," but wants to provide the best service to the community they can. "We're going to attack this problem the best that we can."

Commissioner Michael Dawson said the town's number one priority is to provide public safety.

If the company's volunteers "decide to just walk away," he said, the town would be responsible for that $1.1 million it takes to run the company each year. A grant of $105,000, he continued, is the least the town can do.

DeWeese told the commissioners that, during a fire company meeting the previous week, it was decided they would commit to going to a 24/7 EMS service for a year and if they have to dip into their savings they will. Likewise, if they have to shut down the program at the end of that one-year period, then they'll have to let those employees go.

Dawson said he wanted to eliminate a recently created position for an economic development director, with an annual salary of $90,000, and possibly give it to the fire department.

"What are our priorities," Dawson said, giving his view of what the decision to give the money comes down to.

Commissioner Michelle Linkey said no one on the board of commissioners is "against helping the fire department," and they realize "the valuable service they provide. What that night's discussion was about was making sure they had all the paperwork the town needed to make an educated decision.

Linkey and DeWeese also clarified that with the previously promised $25,000, all that is needed is an additional $80,000, for a total of $105,000.

"We have a lot of priorities and we have to line those priorities up and see where that money is going to come from," Commissioner Barbara Brown said.

Commissioner Ray Ryan, who was the company's fire chief at the time the career services program began, said: "I don't see a priority more important then the safety and lives of the town."

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