Millville fire company appeals for additional funding

With decreased funding and increasing costs, the Millville Volunteer Fire Company addressed the Millville Town Council on April 12 regarding new, creative ideas for the budget.

Fire Lt. Cody Lockwood said both state and county funding have decreased yearly, while costs continue to rise. The Delaware Volunteer Fireman’s Association has petitioned the state to increase funding, but to little avail. County funds increased slightly, but are still down from earlier years.

“We realize it’s tight for everyone, but we really need to be able to provide a service for the community, and if we don’t have funding, we can’t do it,” Lockwood said.

Having revisited and severely cut their budget halfway through the fiscal year, the MVFC has now cut everything from the company picnic to volunteer firefighting equipment to provide payroll for emergency medical technicians in the company’s ambulance service.

MVFC representatives said they have been fiscally responsible but still had to borrow $76,000 from other accounts. After the purchase of a new ambulance, such funds will not be available next year.

Town Manager Debbie Botchie suggested having the fire company’s employees cover some of their healthcare costs, as many municipalities have done in the last few years. The MVFC recently capped the dollar amount on health benefits, but they said they prefer to provide competitive benefits to attract quality EMTs.

Councilman Jon Subity asked for clarification about the employee or volunteer status of the company’s EMTs. The MVFC representatives said there are volunteer EMTs, but fulltime service is too much for them to handle. Thus, paid and trained professionals are required.

The fire company cannot raise fees, because the government sets ambulance rates. Most billing goes through Medicaid and Medicare, so people pay less for the service. Plus, the fire company also cannot go to a collections agency for unpaid bills.

Town Solicitor Seth Thompson recommended the MVFC contact state legislators to request a change in Millville’s town charter, to raise the town’s cap on funding going to the company.

The MVFC representatives also invited the town council and Millville residents to attend the fire company’s 75th Anniversary event at the fire hall on Saturday, April 16. The event included a parade down Route 26, historical displays and presentations, and more.

In other news from the April 12 council meeting:

? The council approved the 2010-fiscal-year audit. Herb Geary of the TGM Group, which prepared the town’s financial statements, said the town is “financially healthy” and has no debt, which is “amazing for a town of [Millville’s] size.”

? After being discussed at the March 22 workshop, the 2012-fiscal-year budget was approved.

? The council voted not to implement a single town-sponsored trash and recycling hauler.

? The Town will mail property tax bills on May 2 and license renewals May 3.

? The Design Standards Manual was approved as part of the implementation process of the 2008 Comprehensive Plan.

The next Town Council workshop will be Tuesday, April 26, at 7 p.m.