After a debate over the Sykesville Freedom District Fire Department's finances, a $4.5 million loan for the fire company's new building construction was approved in a 4-1 vote by the Carroll County Board of Commissioners Thursday.
The volunteer fire company's building was destroyed by a fire in February 2010 started by a snow storm that caused the roof to collapse. While phase one of the rebuild project for the new building and fire hall was recently completed and paid for, the fire department looked to the Board for help in financing the next phases of the $7.1 million rebuild while maintaining a balanced budget.
The money was approved through the county’s low interest loan program with a 20-year repayment plan.
According to County Comptroller Robert Burk, historically the program has been offered to volunteer fire departments where the county interests bonds to finance the loan and subsequently passes through the interest at no cost to the county.
Commissioner Richard Rothschild, District 4, voted against awarding the loan to the fire department, stating that he was unsure as to the ability of the organization to pay the county back.
"The problem that I’m having is that this project was never approved by the board and it’s more than twice the original size," said Rothschild. "I want to make sure that we don’t enable this fire company to get in over their heads."
"I want them to flourish, I want them to be successful, I want them to have the resources they need, but under this scenario they’re going to get into a situation where they are going to bury themselves in debt with a project that is more than 100 percent its original size. I don’t think it’s responsible," said Rothschild.
Commissioner Doug Howard, District 5, disagreed stating that the fire department's history of fiscal responsibility and loan repayment is enough to approve their request.
"They’ve got cash reserve, they have money in reserve for equipment...We’ve got a building under construction and a fire company with a long history of paying off their loans so I think we just need to get it done," said Howard.