When the Town of Amherst Fire Department isn’t busy saving lives, it’s saving money in times of proposed budget cuts, especially with a new grant it just received that will improve its capabilities and provide better support to the community.
The fire department was awarded $55,852 in Federal Emergency Management Agency Assistance to Firefighters Grants (FEMA), after undergoing an application process. The grant will be applied to purchasing federally-mandated equipment that is required to be installed by January of 2013.
Fire Chief Timothy Nelson said the grant will allow for the overall betterment of the department.
“The new mandate is that there is going to be a change on how our radio frequencies are handled and we have to act in support of the new bandwidth,” he said.
“It will improve our overall abilities and allow us to have better communication with other departments in the future,” he added.
Assistant Fire Chief Lindsey Stromgren took the task of writing the grant and identified what was needed among the department.
“Basically, when they put out the invitation for the grant, it wasn’t specific for any equipment, we had to identify ourselves what needed upgrading,” said Stromgren.
He added, “We figured that communications was something that was going to get us help, plus it’s much harder to justify a grant with something like a new fire truck.”
Nelson added without the grant, the updates were going to take a toll on budget and would be expensive to complete.
Five percent of the grant must be matched by the fire department to receive the grant and according to Nelson, the funds are going to be withdrawn from the training budget. He added that having ample time before the equipment is installed will allow the department to carefully decide from where exactly funds can be withdrawn.
Strongrem said the Town of Amherst has proposed a two-to-three percent budget cut for the departments of the town that would make affording the equipment more difficult without the additional money.
Nelson is appreciative of the grant, but said that the department could always use more.
“We can always use more tools and rescue equipment, because things break over time,” he said.
“The town does a great job with supporting us, but there is always more we could use,” he added.
Stromgren said the grant money was a necessity, because the department would not be able to pay for the required equipment on their own.
“We wouldn’t be able to afford all of it. We put in for the equipment with capital funding before even applying for the grant,” he said.
In addition to receiving the upgrades to the equipment, the fire department plans to carry out a review of their operation for the new year. This will help to determine what can be done better within the department. Medical standards have already been reviewed and revamped, and operational standards are scheduled to be reviewed next.
In a statement from Senator Scott Brown about the recent grant recipients, Brown said, “This funding is an important step toward ensuring they (firefighters) have the proper tools and resources, and I’m pleased our state is receiving these grants.”
The grant was a portion of a total of about $2 million that was received by a dozen fire departments statewide.
Tim Jones can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.