Emergency services (Fire and Ambulance) throughout the state of Delaware are provided by volunteer fire companies with only one exception, the City of Wilmington. These volunteer companies are funded by a percentage stipend on all insurance premiums paid in this State apportioned by formula to all 60 Delaware volunteer fire companies and by donations.
Traditionally over the decades ambulance service for our area and our Town has been provided by the Millville Fire Company. In recent years, in acknowledgement of the traffic congestion that exists on Route 26 in the summer months the Millville Fire Company has stationed an ambulance in Bethany Beach for the summer season.
More than a year go the Millville Fire Company noticed all affected parties of their intention to stop providing ambulance service in the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company service area (an area that begins at the State line in Fenwick Island and extends to the Indian River Inlet). The Millville Volunteer Fire Company cited growth in their service area as their prime reason for making that decision and also stated that the decision was irrevocable.
Once noticed of this change the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company went to work on a plan to fund and operate an ambulance service in our area. Having just constructed a new facility and with a significant long term capitol equipment replacement plan in effect the Company did not, nor did it anticipate, having the resources necessary to provide a new ambulance service. One of the first things that the Company attempted was the passage of legislation in the Delaware General Assembly that would enable the County to collect an ambulance fee from all properties in the Fire Companies service area to cover start up and operating expenses for the service. That legislation was not well received by the Volunteer fire services in the State and never made it to the floor of the Delaware General Assembly.
When their attempt to equitably share costs with all residents in their service area failed the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Service then turned to the four large communities in their service area, the Towns of Bethany Beach, Fenwick Island, South Bethany and Sea Colony. Of the 10,000 properties in the service area these communities represent 7000 homeowners. The Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company asked those communities if they would commit to funding the ambulance service while the Company worked to again attempt to pass the legislation and/or actively solicit cost sharing with the other smaller communities in the service area.
After a number of meetings with Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company an Agreement was reached that created a sponsoring group comprised of Bethany Beach, Fenwick Island, South Bethany and Sea Colony. This sponsoring group committed for a ten year period to fund ambulance services in the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Companies service area. The Agreement clearly states that if any other source of funding becomes available that the Agreement will end.
This Agreement has been reviewed by our attorney and attorneys for the other communities and presented to the four affected legislative bodies where it has been discussed and approved.
The total projected cost for yearly operation of this service, which also includes repayment of a ten year loan on new equipment, is approximately $500,000. When other sources of funding are taken into consideration (State and County monies available for emergency medical service) the commitment for the four communities is approximately $300,000 at this time. This works out to a cost that will be approximately $40.00 a year for residents and business owners in Bethany Beach. All taxable parcels in the community will be assessed and all businesses as well.
As part of this agreement the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company promises to work to pass legislation that will enable them to assess all residences in their service area and further they promise to aggressively pursue all smaller communities in their service area to subscribe to the service, thus driving down our Town’s financial commitment. The Agreement gives the four sponsors the authority to review and approve the Ambulance Service yearly budget and obligates the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company to make quarterly fiscal reports to the sponsors.
It is anticipated the Town will make the first assessment for this service in February of 2009 in an individual mailing to all property owners. This first assessment will be for costs associated with the startup of the service and will be $30.00. Subsequently the assessment will be levied with the yearly tax/sanitation/sinking fund billing and is estimated to be approximately $40.00. Business owners will be assessed at the time they renew their yearly business license.