Source: Sherman Publications

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Federal dollars flowing to local FDs

by CJ Carnacchio

February 09, 2011

Oxford fire captains Kurt Fechter (left) and Ron Jahlas did the legwork and paperwork that secured nearly $287,000 in federal grant money for their department as well as Addison and Brandon’s fire departments. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio.
It's raining federal dollars for the Oxford, Addison and Brandon fire departments.

Last week, it was announced the three township departments would be receiving a total of $225,359 in grant money through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program.

This money will be used to replace and upgrade each department's communications system, according to Oxford Fire Chief Pete Scholz.

"It's phenomenal," he said. "In these economic times, there's no way that any of us, in our operating or capital budgets, could come up with that sizeable amount of money on our own to be able to replace them."

These upgrades will allow the departments the ability to provide support to each other in the event of a communications-related failure such as an antenna going down or an entire dispatch system going off-line.

"If dispatch goes down completely, then all three of us can back each other up," Scholz said.

The money will also allow the departments to comply with the Federal Communication Commission's requirement that all of their radios operate on narrow-band frequencies by 2013.

"This will allow us to replace all the older radios in our fleet and our hand-helds to make them all narrow-band compliant," Scholz explained.

As a condition of receiving this grant, the three departments must contribute a combined $25,039 in matching monies from their own budgets.

This is Oxford's second federal grant of the year.

A few weeks ago, the department learned it would be the recipient of $61,297 in federal dollars to replace 15 sets of firefighter turnout gear, which consists of coats, boots, pants and helmets.

"A lot of the turnout gear is over 10 years old and getting pretty tattered," Scholz said.

The grant money will pay for a new machine to wash the turnout gear.

"You can't wash it in a normal washing machine," Scholz explained. "It has to be special washed in a commercial machine."

The grant will also pay for the installation of a monitored smoke/fire alarm system in Station #1, located at the corner of N. Washington and Church streets. This will cost nearly $13,000.

"That part never got put in as part of the final construction project because the (bond) money ran out," Scholz explained.

The entire station is currently protected by a fire suppression system (i.e. sprinklers) along with water-flow alarms and smoke detectors throughout the building.

The difference is this new system would allow the entire building to be monitored 24 hours a day by an alarm company, so if the firefighters are "out on a call and something happens," the company can alert the department, according to Scholz.

As a condition of this grant, the fire department must contribute $3,226 in matching monies.

Fire Capt. Ron Jahlas wrote both grant applications, while Capt. Kurt Fechter provided the numbers and did the legwork for the communications grant.