Bethany Beach Vol. Fire Dept. Calling on Towns for Funding - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Bethany Beach Vol. Fire Dept. Calling on Towns for Funding

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Sign outside of Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company is calling on people to volunteer to deal with their shortage. (Photo: WBOC) Sign outside of Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company is calling on people to volunteer to deal with their shortage. (Photo: WBOC)

BETHANY BEACH, Del. - The Bethany Beach Fire Volunteer Fire Company is calling for town funding to deal with a dropping level of volunteerism, but finding that money has been difficult. This is as the local municipalities are looking for county homeowners to pay their fair share for these fire services. 

The department is asking Bethany Beach, South Bethany Beach, Fenwick Island, and Sea Colony to chip in, in order to cover the $42,824 needed to add four "air pack qualified" full-time firefighters from May through August. Eventually the department is also looking for a full-time solution of $241,000 per year from the communities. 

"Volunteers are dwindling fast," said Bethany Beach Fire Chief Brian Martin. "We are certainly not in panic mode right now. But we know we have an issue."

Martin said that the number of "air pack qualified" volunteers have dropped significantly from 46 in 2010 to just 14 in 2016. The department is expecting to have just eight by 2021. 

Bethany Beach has already agreed to allocating $16,659 for the department. South Bethany agreed to pay its portion, contingent on all the other communities joining in as well. Sea Colony has a meeting to discuss its plans later this month. 

Meanwhile Fenwick Island has raised more opposition to the plan. Fenwick Island Mayor Eugene Langan said that the Budget Committee decided they would not fund the department, unless the county was involved. Of the approximately 10,000 people served by the Bethany beach Fire Department, approximately 1,200 people live in unincorporated areas of the county. Langan said that includes approximately 590 people who live in the county land south of Fenwick Island. 

"It's inequitable to have the incorporated part of town pay the whole bill," he said. "I'd like to see the county step up." 

Bethany Beach Mayor Jack Gordon said that the payment would not be a "long-term solution." Gordon said that the group has been pushing the state to levy a county tax on the entire fire district. Gordon said a similar attempt was made in 2008, in regards to the EMS funding, but failed in the Delaware General Assembly. 

"Only 85 percent of the people in our fire district," he said. "Are paying to finance our EMS service. So we want to get away from that." 

The group of town leaders have met with State Sen. Gerald Hocker and State Rep. Ron Gray, to talk about a possible tax, although no bills have been submitted. 

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