Non-Profit Internet Source for News, Events, History, & Culture of Northern Frederick & Carroll County Md./Southern Adams County Pa.


County to hold public hearing to discuss proposed fire tax

Erin Cunningham
Frederick News Post

Emmitsburg residents might soon be paying a fire tax.

The Frederick County Commissioners will conduct a public hearing Tuesday to discuss the possibility of taxes as high as 13.5 cents per $100 assessed property value.

Some commissioners say the money is needed to provide career personnel at Emmitsburg Volunteer Ambulance Co. The company recently had fail rates as high as30 percent and a 10-year history of not getting ambulances out on time.

Commissioners voted in August to restrict the company to second-due calls and place career personnel 24 hours a day, seven days a week at Vigilant Hose Co.

They will take public comment Tuesday on the company's needs.

Besides the 13.5 cent rate for 24-hour coverage seven days a week, officials are considering a 6.5 cent tax for 12-hour coverage five days a week at the ambulance company.

Emmitsburg currently has no fire tax, unlike other county areas.

"I hope there is some sort of relief for volunteers to assist in providing service in (Emmitsburg)," said Chip Jewell, director of Volunteer Fire and Rescue Services.

He said he has mixed emotions on the issue, but said the Frederick County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association did recommend the company have 24-hour coverage.

Emmitsburg Town Commissioner Diane Walbrecker said she hopes the commissioners ultimately choose a 13.5 cent tax rate.

"I think it's necessary," she said. "We can't let our people in Emmitsburg take the chance that the volunteers may not respond on time."

Town commissioners and Mayor Jim Hoover are to attend the public hearing but will be going as private citizens, not public officials.

"I think there will be people who are worried about the additional tax burden," Ms. Walbrecker said. "It's a fact we have to face because the assessments of our homes are going up extraordinarily?'

She spoke to many residents, most of whom are in favor of 24-hour coverage. Many people said they do not want to be without care because an ambulance fails to show up.

Some are also worried about the additional tax burden. But Ms. Walbrecker said it is a decision between giving the town tax dollars or giving them volunteers for the ambulances.

"I haven't heard anything that makes me 100 percent confident in their ability to turn around their response rates," she said.

Joe Pelkey, ambulance company president, said the company is increasing its number of volunteers and more are coming in by the day. The company has 26 emergency medical technicians, and 12 of them are also drivers.

The public hearing will be Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Mother Seton School on Seton Avenue.

Read other news stories related to the Emmitsburg Ambulace Company