Hot money

Fire departments target federal stimulus funds

By Tim Barnum|Staff writer
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At the end of May, fire departments, hurting due to the shortage of funds available in a struggling economy, will have a chance to wrap their arms around approximately $210 million available to fire departments from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) passed in February. In Arenac County, several departments have begun to put together requests for the stimulus dollars, which were added to the budget of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the granting agency to first response units.

Omer-Arenac Fire Department eyeing truck for grass, field fires

OMER — If granted stimulus funds, the Omer-Arenac Fire Department will be purchasing a new brush truck with federal money.

“The one we have now is almost 40 years old,” said Omer-Arenac Fire Department Chief Brian Leja.

According to Leja, a new brush truck would cost about $44,000 and serves many purposes.

“It’s for putting out field fires, grass fires, forest fires,” he said. “It’s also going to be used as a first response vehicle.”

Leja added that a brush truck can serve as a first response vehicle in the case of an accident if a department is called out for scene or traffic control.

SAFA targets new building

STANDISH — While the Omer-Arenac Fire Department is hoping to be granted funds for a new brush truck, the Standish Area Fire Authority (SAFA) is looking at a much larger project – a new fire barn that would double as a regional emergency services headquarters.

“We’re trying to work with a number of agencies to improve our chances of scoring some of this federal money,” said SAFA Chief Mitch Oliver. “What we’re trying to do is put together a package that would describe an emergency services building. We’d like to put in a regional state of the art training building. We could use that as a shelter. We could use it as an EOC (emergency operations center). We could use it as a dispatch building.

“I’m hoping we can have a minimum of four agencies working together. … We think that would help attract the federal money.

“We will definitely invite the entire county to use the building,” he added.

Currently, Oliver says the actual cost and location of the new building are still being worked out, as he is unsure which agencies would like to be a part of the project.

“I would guess we’re gong to be looking at a couple million dollars,” he said. “As far as location, we’re looking at the (Standish) industrial park.”

He added that one corner of Airpark drive, across the road from the Arenac County Fairgrounds, which is currently also being looked at for a senior living center by a developmental construction company, would make an ideal spot for a new building for firefighters and emergency services.

“We could probably on the same property facilitate a helo (helicopter) pad,” Oliver said.

As for the current building, Oliver says the size of the department is playing a part in looking for an upgrade.

“At this point, we’ve kind of outgrown it (current fire barn),” he said. “We’ve been in the building about 35 years. The standard life span on a commercial building is about 30 years.

“We’re doing good, but it’s time to look at other possibilities.”

Oliver also added that other sources of funding for a new, state of the art building are being sought out as well and that a new building could possibly be the property of the fire department, rather than the city of Standish.

New tanker tops list of possible requests for Twining-Mason-Turner Fire Department

TWINING — The Twining-Mason-Turner Fire Department has not filed an official request for stimulus funds yet, but chief Dave Fitzgerald says a new tanker, valued at approximately $149,000, is something the department needs in the near future.

“We’re trying to try to subcontract ours’ (request) out and have someone else write our grant,” Fitzgerald said, adding fire departments in Whittemore and Hale have used an outside source to write grants and had some success in the past.

Fitzgerald says the grant writer would be paid roughly a couple hundred dollars upfront and receive a small stipend if the grant is approved.

He says while the chances of being approved for stimulus funds aren’t great, it doesn’t hurt to try.

“You got to take a chance,” Fitzgerald said.

New Sterling chief nailing down stimulus request list

STERLING — Since taking over in April, Scott Adams, the new chief of the Sterling Area Fire Department has had his focus on other areas besides the ARRA monies, but it’s not entirely off his radar.

“We don’t have an application for the stimulus money yet,” he said. “We’re definitely going to apply for some. … There are some things that need to be updated.

“I’ve got a couple guys checking on it right now.”

Kurt Humerickhouse, chief of the AuGres-Sims Whitney Fire Department, and Rick Kalosis, Chief of the Moffat Township Fire Department, both said no stimulus requests have been made at this time due to a shortage of information.

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