Fireman’s Association requests fee increase

Published 4:58 pm Tuesday, March 14, 2023

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JACKSON – Volunteer fire departments in Northampton County receive allocations from the county each year, but this year they’re hoping to receive an increase in funds.

Mark Vick, who serves as president of the Northampton County Fireman’s Association as well as Rich Square’s Fire Chief, presented the request to the Northampton County Board of Commissioners at their regular meeting on March 6.

Vick explained that volunteer fire departments are struggling under financial burdens due to inflation and additional services, which makes it more difficult to keep equipment updated.

“Over the past five to seven years, most departments have taken on increased responsibilities through added services such as vehicle extrication and first responding to medical emergencies,” he said. “These added services combined with lower donations have placed further financial burden on historically underfunded organizations.”

“Our call volume is 80 percent outside of town limits,” Vick stated, reporting on data he had gathered from departments throughout the county.

With costs going up and the need to make sure equipment is updated and maintained, Vick said, “we’re doing what we can to try to make sure we can maintain our current services.”

Currently, the 10 fire departments in Northampton County receive funds from the county as part of their agreement to provide fire protection for residents and property owners outside their town limits. Departments with an established fire tax district receive an $850 annual allocation, and the two districts without a fire tax district (Conway and Severn) receive $3,850 each.

That $14,500 total is allocated in the county budget each year, and each department signs a contract annually to receive their portion of the funds. The amounts are paid to each department in addition to what they receive in fire tax collections.

Vick noted that Northampton County’s contribution is less than what fire departments receive from the surrounding counties. According to the information he submitted to the board, Hertford County pays almost $36,000 annually along with $250 per response outside town limits; Halifax County pays $7,000 annually and gives each department a portion of sales tax from items sold in their districts; and Warren County pays $20,000 annually along with $5,000 for specialties such as vehicle extrication, etc.

“We’re asking for that contract fee to be upped to align itself better with our surrounding counties,” Vick stated.

The request from the county Fireman’s Association, Vick said, was an increase to a $20,000 annual allocation for the contract fees.

Board Chair Charles Tyner asked if the request was $20,000 per department, and Vick answered yes.

Tyner noted that some departments seemed to be doing better than others, and questioned if every department needed the same amount.

“It was a unified discussion of the [fire] chiefs,” Vick answered.

Commissioner Melvetta Broadnax Taylor asked if the departments are able to get any type of grant funding to help them out as well.

“Yes, we apply for every grant that’s out there that’s possible. Sometimes, we get it, sometimes we don’t,” he said.

The commissioners did not take a vote on the request at their meeting, but Tyner said County Manager Julian Phillips would look over the information and the request. He also thanked Vick and other firefighters for the work they do.