Local fire companies eye state grant funding, making lists of needed facility improvements

This is the building in Amenia that will be torn down, and replaced with a bigger building with a hall and spaces for offices.

Judith O'Hara Balfe

Local fire companies eye state grant funding, making lists of needed facility improvements

MILLERTON — Fire companies have until Tuesday, April 30, to submit their applications for $25 million in grant funding to New York’s volunteer fire departments announced in December by state Sen. Michelle Hinchey.

“We just hired a grant writer this week to take advantage of the grant money,” said Richard Howard of the Amenia Fire Company at a breakfast held in its station house.

He looked around.

“This building will come down,” he said. “We’re tearing down the old building, and erecting a new hall, a larger building. We’ll have offices within the hall. We also need to replace the washer and dryer.”

North East Fire District (Millerton) Chief Jason Watson brought up the purchase of a PPE (personal protective equipment) dryer for use in the department at a recent meeting. He had other equipment in mind as well that the company will consider to determine its needs, keeping in mind the April deadline.

Stanford fire Chief Ed Cerul said the town’s department intends to apply for some of the grant money, especially for infrastructure. It already has projects in mind. As of now, Cerul said, it is waiting for materials for projects already in progress, waiting on materials and hoping to start painting and performing other work in April. Grant money, if awarded, would be used for a training facility.

Pine Plains fire Chief Brian Walsh, who is also the town supervisor, related that the fire company is very much in need of storage space, and that will take priority if it receives grant money.

Millbrook Fire Department President Matt Rochfort said that his department hasn’t decided on whether or not it will apply for grant money.

The department has been making repairs and replacing some of its building appliances, so the company is in pretty good shape. It built its own hall, and would have to make a close inspection to see if and what was needed, he said.

He said that it received and still has money from the Town of Washington last year, and so far, hasn’t discussed any plans to seek new grants.

$25 million

The millions announced by Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office are geared toward infrastructure and response equipment items.

Twenty million dollars is allocated for construction, renovation or facility purchase projects including fire stations, substations and shared stations as well as fire training towers. The funds can also be used for meeting exhaust systems, spaces, rooms for instruction, and for decontamination shower facilities.

The other $5 million will be used to purchase some allowable fire service equipment. This would cover personal protective equipment such as washer/extractor, dryers, radios and communications systems, mask service unit/air compressor, and rehab equipment.

While recruitment and retention are major problems for the volunteer fire departments in the area, there are no grants currently open for those items.

Hochul has often talked about her commitment to the volunteers who devote their time, energy and even their lives in protecting their communities. She said at the time of the announcement:

“The volunteer firefighters of New York are selfless public servants who put their lives on the line to keep their communities safe[...] This funding will go a long way in reminding those who continue to serve that we will always support them in any and every way we can.”

The grant is the fiscal year 2023-2024 Volunteer Fire Infrastructure & Response Equipment (V-FIRE) Grant Program. It is a state-funded competitive grant program that will allow eligible fire companies to submit grants that will aid them in supporting the safety and security of the public that supports the enhancement of the security and safety of the citizens they serve. It is aimed at funding projects such as construction, renovation, or purchase costs for critical facilities of buildings, training facilities, or other structures that support fire operations, for up to $1 million or up to $500,000 if proposing projects for allowable fire service equipment to upgrade and improve their response capabilities.

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