Lasker firemen move into new building

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 28, 2005

LASKER – Lasker Fire Chief Phillip Outland was all smiles last week when his department received a $20,000 check from the Office of the State Fire Marshall at the North Carolina Department of Insurance.

Chief Deputy Commissioner Alex Spencer and Special Assistant for Regional Affairs William &uot;Bill&uot; Bradburry of the OSFM presented the check to Outland as a match to help cover the cost of a new emergency building that would replace the smaller 25 year-old outdated structure.

Outland said the department, which also assists Conway, Woodland, Jackson and Rich Square, has been saving for about three years to be able to participate in the grant opportunity.

&uot;This is the largest grant our department has received,&uot; Outland said, noting the tremendous blessing it was to small town fire departments such as his.

With 50 percent of funding coming from donations and benefit dinners, Outland credited the Fire Service District, which was created about three years prior, for the remainder of the revenue.

&uot;It’s not easy for us to come up with the funds for big ticket items such as this,&uot; he said, &uot;but we have had quite a bit of help on this project.&uot;

The new building replaces the old facility that was experiencing foundation trouble. It will comfortably accommodate four fire trucks as well as an office area.

Lasker Mayor Dick Collier, who attended the event, said that he couldn’t believe the amount of space the facility had to offer.

&uot;This is a big improvement,&uot; he said. &uot;It’s something our firemen and members of the community can be proud of.&uot;

According to Bradburry the grant money comes from a small percentage of state fire and lightening insurance premiums.

&uot;It benefits everybody,&uot; he said, adding that during Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Jim Long’s tenure, the General Assembly passed the legislation making the grants possible.

&uot;Fire and rescue personnel are on the front lines of responding to emergencies and protecting us everyday,&uot; Long said in a press release.

&uot;The bravery shown by these men and women should be supported with the best equipment and supplies needed to do their jobs right and do it safely, but all too often our volunteer departments struggle for money,&uot; he said.

In 1988, the General Assembly created the Fire Grant Fund to help volunteer units raise money for equipment and supplies. The funds are matching grants where the state matches dollar for dollar, up to an approved amount, money that has been raised locally to purchase necessary equipment.

&uot;I am proud that we have this grant program in place to provide departments like this one with much-needed funds to continue their good work,&uot; Long said. &uot;We’ve done a lot of good things over the past 15 years and I intend to continue supporting our fire and rescue organizations across this great state.&uot;

Bradburry added that of the two functions of Commissioner Long’s job, he was most excited about his service as the State Fire Marshal. &uot;He knows the real heroes are the guys that regularly put their lives on the line for others and he’d be the first to heartily thank them.&uot;

During Commissioner Long’s tenure in office, the Department of Insurance has distributed a total of $48,089,790.16 in grant money to fire and rescue departments across the state with a total of $624,990.43 in grants approved for Northampton County alone.

&uot;This is a gorgeous facility and we’re proud to administer it,&uot; Spencer said.

James &uot;Jim&uot; Troutman, Vice President of First Citizen’s Bank in Conway was also at the event and is responsible for helping the department to finance the remainder of the money used to complete the project.

&uot;The volunteer fire department qualifies for tax exempt financing, so they don’t have to pay tax on the amount of money lent,&uot; he said, noting that the bank was specifically set up to do that. &uot;We jump up and down to do this kind of funding,&uot; he said.

Outland thanked Bradburry and Spencer for having such a &uot;fantastic&uot; office, stating, &uot;Everybody there is tremendous. They have been nothing but caring and helpful.&uot;

The Lasker Fire Department is planning to hold its annual Brunswick stew and barbeque supper Saturday, March 12 to help with the loan payoff.

&uot;This is a grand occasion,&uot; said Northampton County Chair of Commissioners Virginia Spruill. &uot;The facility is beautiful and I believe it will enhance and improve the services for the citizens of Lasker as well as those in Northampton County.&uot;

The Lasker Volunteer Fire Department has received $72,568.08 in grant money to date.

&uot;I think the presence all those who made the effort to be here is just evidence of county and statewide support and we are very fortunate to be the beneficiary. I think this building will serve the community very well,&uot; Outland said.