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Wicomico still refuses to fund city fire, EMS

Wicomico still refuses to fund city fire, EMS

Salisbury and Wicomico County officials have inked a deal that sets the rate of reimbursement for fire services. Liz Holland

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In coming weeks, the Wicomico County Council will vote to accept the county executive’s fiscal year 2019 budget.

In this budget, the county executive has once again ignored residents and businesses in the city of Salisbury by refusing to fund fire and EMS services within the city limits.

For 88 years prior to fiscal year 2018, Salisbury’s volunteer fire companies were funded on an equal ground with the other fire companies in Wicomico County. Since the signing of the Fire Service Agreement in April 2017 between the city of Salisbury and Wicomico County (which is only for fire and EMS services provided outside the city limits, but within the Salisbury fire district), the county executive takes his stance — that volunteers now must receive their entire funding from the monies the city of Salisbury receives through the Fire Service Agreement.

This indicates the county executive is ignoring the needs of the Wicomico County citizens within the city limits and will have redirected almost $875,000 in two years — their tax dollars — to the rest of the county.

The city already provides more than $355,000 for the volunteers of Salisbury in the form of retirement, insurances, training, uniforms and turnout gear. The lost funding from Wicomico County will affect the services we jointly provide to you — the citizens and businesses of the city of Salisbury — in the form of delayed replacement of outdated equipment and decreased safety of department members wearing aged protective gear that should be replaced.

The total budget for Wicomico County is $151,393,421. The fire and EMS portion of the budget for fiscal year 2019 is $5,113,299, of which $1,020,369 comes from the citizens and businesses of the city of Salisbury — while they receive $0 back for its fire and EMS services.

We requested back in January a funding amount of $502,570 for the two volunteer Salisbury fire companies, based on the funding amounts being budgeted for the other 11 volunteer fire companies in Wicomico County.

If our request was not denied, there would only be a 0.3 percent increase to the budget, the other county volunteer fire companies would still receive their same funding and the citizens and businesses of the city of Salisbury would not be totally subsidizing the fire and EMS services budget without receiving anything in return.

We work jointly and cohesively with the career division of the Salisbury Fire Department, riding duty shifts with them, for a total last year of more than 15,000 hours of service. That does not include hours spent on training, in classes, with administration duties and bell alarm response hours.

On any given fire or EMS call, you may have one or more volunteers assisting you without you even knowing it. This helps provide more staffed pieces of emergency equipment, faster response to calls, and a better service to citizens and businesses.

So now we ask you, the citizens and businesses of the city of Salisbury, to call the county executive’s office at 410-548-4801 or email bculver@wicomicocounty.org, and the County Council at 410-548-4696 to let them know you want some of your tax dollars to come back to you in fire and EMS services.

Remind them you are Wicomico County citizens and businesses, too.

Walter Townsend III is president of the Salisbury Fire Department Inc., a citizen of Salisbury and of Wicomico County.

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