The city of the Spanish fort and the VFD merger scheduled for 2022
By Guy Busby
FORT SPANISH – The Spanish Fort Volunteer Fire Service would become a municipal agency next year under plans discussed by city officials and the department’s board of directors, Mayor Mike McMillan said on Friday.
McMillan said he and city attorney David Conner will meet with the Fort Spain Volunteer Fire Department board of directors this week. He said the current plan calls for the department to merge with the city in the first six months of the upcoming fiscal year, which begins October 1.
âIt looks like what we’re aiming for is for the merger to go ahead in April, because there are a lot of moving parts that need to be done, legally and Mr. Conner needs to put in place and, of course, the fire council, they must also act on it, âMcMillan told city council members on Monday, August 2.
The mayor said members of the volunteer firefighters agree the merger is necessary.
âEveryone seems to be on the same page,â McMillan said. âThey recognize the ever increasing price of fire services. Their budget request this year has gone from $ 1 million, what we paid them last year, to $ 1.3 million this year. Thus, their costs continue to increase. Their donations continue to decline. The city is responsible for health, safety and well-being and that is certainly a big part of that, so we have to make sure everything is taken care of. “
McMillan said that as the population of Spanish Fort grows, so does the need for fire protection and other emergency services. He said donations for the volunteer fire service had not kept up with demand for the services.
Over the past three years, the city’s funding for the department has increased from $ 800,000 to $ 1 million to $ 1.3 million.
McMillan said personnel costs are one of the reasons for the increase.
âA big part of the cost is the staff,â McMillan said. âWe have made an effort to add three additional paid staff each year so that we can provide 24/7 coverage. Volunteers do an amazing job, but we need to make sure we have coverage at all times. .
The city and volunteer firefighters are also working on plans to build a new fire station near the town hall.
“I’m not sure how we’re going to position this in this year’s budget because there are a lot of moving parts there, but we’ll be moving forward with this,” McMillan said at the board meeting. .
In fiscal year 2019-20, the ministry’s spending exceeded funding by $ 179,000, according to the reports. The Volunteer Fire Department currently has 12 full-time paid firefighters and three other paid staff. The department also has six part-time firefighters on the payroll.
In addition to city funding and donations, each Baldwin County fire department receives approximately $ 199,000 per year from a property tax passed for fire protection. The money cannot be used for wages but can help pay for operating expenses, officials said.