Berlin Fire Co. town funding officially cut
BERLIN — Mayor Gee Williams and the Berlin Council stayed true to their word at Monday’s mayor and council meeting by officially cutting the town’s funding of the Berlin Fire Company in response to what town officials say is the company’s refusal to work with them concerning multiple complaints of harassment.
“A total of $557,000 will be allocated to the contingency fund of the Fiscal Year 2013 budget,” Williams said at the meeting.
Contingency funds are reserve accounts used to pay for unexpected and unbudgeted expenditures.
The funding cut, which accounts for about 28 percent of the company’s budget, was announced by Williams last Wednesday in a letter sent to the citizens of Berlin.
“Over the past six months the Mayor and Council have done all that we can within our authority to protect the rights of the paid EMS personnel,” Williams said in the notice.
Complaints to the town of harassment by both paid and volunteer personnel began in February, which prompted Berlin officials to conduct an internal investigation of paid EMS workers.
In 2009, all the fire company’s paid EMS employees were “leased” to the town so they could receive health and retirement benefits from the government. The “leasing” made them employees of the town in an administrative sense, thus satisfying Internal Revenue Service requirements regarding government benefits.
But by presiding over the company’s paid personnel, the town became accountable for the actions of those employees and when the town found the allegations to be credible, a memorandum was sent to the fire company from the town in March that demanded disciplinary action for the offending paid employees.
The town also demanded control over those paid employees and that their supervisor report to town officials.
The company, through its attorney Joe Moore, maintains that it has responded to all the town’s demands except the last one, which it said it will not do because of the complexity of scheduling both paid and volunteer EMS personnel.
The two entities remain deadlocked.