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County commissioners split on firefighter grant

Chief Kris Hood sought the board’s permission to apply for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant For the Gadsden County Fire Service.

The primary goal of the grant is to meet the firefighting and emergency response needs of the fire departments and nonaffiliated emergency medical service organizations. Since 2001, the grant has helped firefighters and other first responders obtain critically needed equipment, protective gear, emergency vehicles, training, and other resources.

If it’s awarded, Gadsden County Fire Service wants to use the grant to purchase 10 full sets of firefighting bunker gear and a Cascade Fill System to fill SCBA Bottles.

The cost of 10 full sets of firefighting bunker gear costs $42,420, and the cost of the fill system is $52,473, totalking $94,893, the agenda request says.

Commissioner Alonzetta Simpkins said she received concerns from some of the fire departments.

Simpkins said some of the other fire departments in the county are also applying for the grant.

Simpkins inquired about the data being used to apply for the grant.

Simpkins said representatives of those departments were concerned that if the county applied using county-wide stats, then they would not be able to use their coverage area to apply for the grant because it would show an overlap.

“Is it for the different fire departments or who would actually be receiving this bunkgear?” Simkins asked.

County Administrator Ed Dixon said initially the county used all data from county fires that the county invests in, whether that’s the county, nonprofit, or community fire departments.

County Fire Chief Kris Hood appeared before the board to further explain.

“The grant is written under the Gadsden County Fire Service, so that is any department that has responded to fires located in Gadsden County,” Hood said.

Hood said they use any data the volunteer fire departments have submitted to the county.

Commission Chair Ronterious Green asked if the other departments can also apply for the grant.

“They can, which could be troublesome, and you run into having multiple grants,” Hood said. 

Hood said that could lead to the grant program asking which one is the most important.

“At the county level we cannot tell these departments that they cannot apply for their own grant, because they are–at least in the unincorporated areas–their own 5013C,” Hood said.”They’re all recognized as fire departments in the state of Florida, so they do have access to apply for these grants.”

Hood noted if the county gets the grant, the equipment could be utilized in any part of the county. It’s not for one particular department, or one agency.

Green asked if any of the other departments have applied for the grant in the past.

Hood said he believes they have, but he didn’t know whether they were successful in getting it.

Simpkins said Concord Volunteer and the Town of Havana Fire Departments are applying for the grant. She said she didn’t want the departments to cancel each other out by applying for the same grant.

Dixon said he spoke with the Town of Havana and they haven’t applied for any grants because they didn’t have data.

“The team was directed to help them restore their data, because you need three years of data to apply for these situations,” Dixon said.

Dixon said the county has the opportunity to get the grant and redistribute the gear across the county.

Commissioner Brenda Holt said the county cannot pick and choose what data it wants to use.

“We have to use everything because you have a better chance of getting those grants, and they knew that before they got the nonprofits…they knew that,” Holt said.

Commissioners Kimblin NeSmith, Green and Holt voted in favor allowing the county fire department to apply for the grant.

Commissioners Eric Hinson and Simpkins voted against it.

The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program requires a Cost Share or Match based on the population in the fire service responsive area. When serving a jurisdiction of more than 20,000 residents but less than 1 million residents, the applicant shall agree to make available non-federal funds in an amount equal to not less than 10% of the grant awarded. The county’s cost share or match would be $9,489.30.

Erin Hill – Gadsden County News Service