Singerly Fire Company, Elkton’s fire, rescue, and emergency medical service provider, asked for some relief in permit and hookup fees that the town informed the organization it will levy on renovations at the Newark Avenue Fire Station. The aging firehouse hasn’t undergone an extensive makeover since it was built in the early 1970s and the charges total about $90,000. Of that amount, about two-thirds is associated with the utility fund.
“We are asking you to waive some fees to help us serve the needs of the community for the next 20 years” as we won’t have to borrow as much money, President Donald Hicks informed the commissioners. Noting the cost-savings benefit of the public safety organization to the municipality, the company representative said, “We stretch what the town give us and provide this vital service without asking for much.” With no comments or questions from the officials, Mayor Joseph Fisona told President Hicks that the board would take the request under advisement and inform him of a decision later.
Elkton doesn’t have a policy to provide guidance on financial waivers, which might, for example, prioritize relief for organizations providing critical services or nonprofits over commercial ventures. The matter of collecting sufficient revenue to capitalize the major utility fund is something the commissioners have struggled with on several fronts. Soon after rushing to waive $150,000 in fees for a commercial developer working on a project in downtown Elkton, officials learned that the major utility fund was facing a shortfall of nearly a half-million dollars. That particular agreement was also part of a lawsuit brought by two taxpayers, after the town forfeited the revenue. In that instance, the town admitted in court that it didn’t have the authority to wave those fees at the time it took that action.
Others have discussed the need for the town to develop guidelines. Former five term Mayor James Crouse, pointed out the need for some systematic way to consider requests for relief after another developer pitched a case and was relieved of paying $30,000. Another time, the town gave the county commissioners sticker shock after it tried to charge that county taxpayers about $400,000 for construction at the Detention Center and that caused a discussion about Elkton’s utilization of the jail. Former Commission Storke also frequently reminded officials about the need to have some guidelines to help them sort through all the requests they receive.
In Singerly’s case, the organization provides an essential public safety service that would be much more costly should the volunteer organization not bear the burden of fire, rescue and EMS, as well as significant independent fundraising, the President pointed out. A discussion by the Mayor and Commissioners should occur at a future meeting.