Town of Emmitsburg
300A S. Seton Ave Emmitsburg, Maryland

November 2004

Fire tax for Emmitsburg

For the past several weeks the Emmitsburg community has been inundated with information concerning the need to have a fire-taxing district. Several months ago the Emmitsburg Ambulance Company sent a letter to Frederick County Fire and Rescue Service informing them of the difficulties the Ambulance Company is having handling the large volume of calls that their first due responder area is responsible for.

The Emmitsburg Ambulance Company should be commended for the service that they have provided for 50 years. The Emmitsburg Ambulance Company has taken great pride in providing a 100 percent volunteer service for 50 years. I know it was not an easy decision for The Emmitsburg Ambulance Company to request career service employees. Obviously, the Emmitsburg Ambulance Company's board of Directors only had the safety of the Emmitsburg community in mind when they made this request.

On Tuesday November 9, 2004 the Frederick County Board of Commissioners will hold a special meeting at Mother Seton School to discuss the level of service that may be needed to meet the demands of the community for emergency ambulance service. Regardless of the decision made by the Frederick County Board of Commissioners to supply part time career service employees (12 hours a day five days a week) or full time career service employees (24 hours a day seven days a week) the Emmitsburg Ambulance Company should remain an active ambulance service in our community. For the past several years the Emmitsburg Ambulance Company has been dispatched on approximately 1000 calls each year. This is equivalent to and exceeds some of the ambulance companies located in Frederick County with much larger populations than Emmitsburg.

The Emmitsburg Ambulance Company's first due response area far exceeds the corporate limits of the Town of Emmitsburg. To See a detailed map of the proposed Fire Tax District . All property owners within the first due response area will be included in any fire tax approved by the Frederick County Board of Commissioners. If the county supports part time service 12 hours a day five days a week, it will increase our county property tax 6.5 cents, if the county supports providing full time service 24 hours a day seven days a week, it will increase our county property tax 13.5 cents.

The current fail rate of the Emmitsburg Ambulance Company is at or above 30 percent. I believe it is fair to say that the average number of the total failed calls are split equally, 1/3 of the failed responses occur during daytime service hours, 1/3 of the failed responses occur during the evening service hours and 1/3 of the failed responses occur during weekend and holiday service hours. Because the failed calls are occurring during all shifts, I would be very concerned if Frederick County provided anything less than 24 hour seven day a week service at this time. If the Frederick County Board of Commissioners only approve part time career service employees for 12 hours a day five days a week it will only improve 1/3 of the current failed calls. I realize to provide 24 hour seven day a week service would be an increase in our county property tax of 13.5 cents and that this may cause a financial burden on some of the greater Emmitsburg residents. However, I feel the financial burden is the lesser of two evils in this matter. When emergency situations occur, time is of the utmost importance. The difference of having an ambulance arrive in 8 - 12 minutes verses an ambulance arriving in 20 - 30 minutes could be the difference in life or death. As the greater Emmitsburg community grows and puts an increased demand on emergency service, the danger of that probability increases.

While Mount Saint Mary's University, the Fire Academy and the Provincial House are enormous assets to the Town, they also create an additional demand for emergency services. The average student population at Mount Saint Mary's University and the Fire Academy combined exceed the total population of the Town of Emmitsburg. When you include the staff of these two facilities, it exceeds the population by several hundred people. With these numbers in mind and knowing the size of Emmitsburg's first due responds area it is easy to see why there is a need for additional manpower to support ambulance service in Emmitsburg.

At this time, I am suggesting that we support full time career service employees for 24 hours seven days a week coverage with a 13.5 cents tax increase. Again, I would be concerned if we only support part time service 12 hours a day five days a week. Four years ago, Emmitsburg fought against any fire tax being implemented and the town was successful in avoiding the tax. Now the county is providing Emmitsburg with full time coverage with no fire tax revenue in place to cover any of the staffing expenses. If we support full time service, the Emmitsburg Ambulance Company will still continue to be dispatched on emergency calls. They will not be shut down. However, this will provide them with the needed time to recruit new members and provide them with the required training and continue to make improvements in the management of the Ambulance Company, which they have already started. With additional active members and improvements in the management of the ambulance company the ambulance Company should be able to demonstrate that they are able to respond to additional calls within the required time without a failed response time. If this can be done, then we may have sufficient ammunition to petition the County to reduce the level of service and most importantly the fire tax from 13.5 cents to 6.5 cents.

I know it is typical that once taxes are put in place, they never get decreased. However, in this instance, if we asked to have the tax decreased, we will be doing so because we are also asking to reduce the level of services we would be receiving.

It is my desire to see the Emmitsburg Ambulance Company remain an active volunteer service to our community. However, at this time I feel the Emmitsburg Ambulance Company needs to turn this situation in to a positive one by decreasing the number of failed responses. They can do that by focusing their energy on ways to improve the management of their current organization and implement strict policies and procedures to prevent failed response times.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call the town office, or e-mail me at

Jim Hoover

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