Fire company petitions Ocean View for help

About a month after asking the Town of Millville for support, Millville Volunteer Fire Company Fire Chief Graig Temple asked Ocean View’s town council on Tuesday to consider implementing an impact fee for the company, which is overwhelmed by growth and rising prices.

Ocean View donated $10,000 last year to the volunteer company, but Temple said it will have to receive more money from the town to offer continued services. Town officials will consider the fee — which would be charged to developers as a percentage of the construction cost — at a workshop later this month.

“As the population increases, we’re going to have to increase our services,” Temple said. “We can’t keep running like a 1960 company,” he added. “We’re doing everything we can financially, but the income’s not coming in.”

Temple said that, so far this year, the company has seen a $15,000 decrease in donations because of the rising “cost of living” on area residents and property owners, including electric and gas price increases, Temple said. The two proposed impact fees — one for fire and one for ambulance — would send .25 percent to .75 percent of the cost of any new construction to the fire company, to be used for capital expenditures. Millville’s fire company has bought land in Clarksville and is considering building an updated building on Route 26, in addition to other annual expenses, Temple said.

“We’re experiencing growth today,” Temple emphasized.

When the Village of Bear Trap Dunes opened about four years ago, fire calls into the company went from 204 to 277 annually, Temple said. Currently, the fire company responds to about 300 fire calls per year. In five years, Temple said, he expects that number to rise to as many as 400, and in 10 years, the company could receive in excess of 800 fire calls from the Millville, Ocean View and Clarksville regions, according to projections.

That growth — which, Temple noted, will occur most heavily on Route 17 in Millville — will incur more costs for the company, more replacement of equipment and the escalated addition of equipment, the fire chief said.

A typical fire apparatus costs $475,000. A ladder truck cost the company $750,000 in 1999. An ambulance costs $185,000, Temple said. Portable radios used by firefighters in fighting blazes cost $3,000 each; gear worn in a fire costs $2,000 — and the fire company buys about 10 new sets of gear annually. All of that — even the gear and radios bought in bulk — is considered capital expenditures, meaning the fees would help cover those costs.

Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin, who knows the stress growth can put on an emergency response department, stood in favor of more Ocean View support for the volunteer company.

“I recognize the fire department’s need to increase revenue. The demand for emergency services is growing rapidly and, as a community, we must meet the demand,” McLaughlin said. “Any and all avenues to assure that the fire department can continue to provide professional services need to be explored.”

Millville Mayor Gary Willey said that Millville’s council will have an impact-fee proposal for the fire company at its regular meeting on Tuesday, June 13. In order to implement an impact fee, Millville had to amend its charter through Delaware’s General Assembly to include the appropriate “wordage,” Willey said.

The mayor said he thinks that he and council, after meeting on the issue for the last month, will present their impact fee plan on Tuesday, but it might wait until July because of holdups with state government, he said.