Suckin’ air – An old curmudgeon’s view

~by Bill Smith
 Assuming, first, all statements made in the Jan. 27 GreeneCountyNewsOnline article, Jefferson officials may have a priority problem.  
… but fire department told to seek outside funding for essential equipment.

The Jefferson city council approved a resolution to apply for a Community Development Block Grant, with a $250,000 commitment of city funds for improving downtown storefronts, at its regular meeting Tuesday night.  The council also gave approval to the Jefferson fire department to seek funding from Grow Greene for air packs, which are “essential equipment” according to fire chief Randy Love.

Love told the council the department’s air packs are not compliant with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards, that he has applied unsuccessfully for funds to replace them from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for the past two or three years.

In the past year Love has sent five air packs in for repair. “We’re getting to the point where they need to be replaced. It’s not only for our safety, but for the public’s safety…. It’s an essential tool that we use a lot,” Love was quoted by GCNO as telling the council.

The department needs to replace 20 packs, and is looking to fund 10 this year at a cost of about $73,000. The fire department’s total annual $95,000 budget is funded from the city’s general fund.

The city has already received close to $65,000 from Wild Rose Casino as required by the state. That amount is expected to be close to $125,000 per year.  Grow Greene plans to give the city $50,000 per year from the charitable funds generated by casino gaming. There are no ‘strings attached’ to either the Wild Rose or the Grow Greene funds.

The council has not yet held any public discussion about how it will use any of the new funding, though council member Lisa Jaskey suggested the council commit $10,000 of the Grow Greene money it is guaranteed as a match for the grant application from the fire department.  “If they (the fire department) didn’t get this grant, we could always come back and revisit this again. We know it’s out there (the need) and there’s potential they (the fire department) could need additional funds to get this done,” Jaskey was quoted as saying.

OKay.  Here is the rub.

The Pizza Ranch fire could have destroyed a half city block of businesses.  That, fortunately did not happen due to a heroic 8-hour effort by (unpaid) volunteer firefighters.

The city spends $250,000 to renovate long-neglected store fronts while the fire department needs equipment that could well be insurance against a huge downtown financial loss be there a fire.

Is it a priority our firemen stand at a street intersection, rubber boot in hand, collecting $1 a pop to buy public  safety equipment?

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