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Windsor firemen benefit from FEMA grant

WINDSOR – Fire Chief Billy Smithwick was the bearer of good news Thursday morning.

The head of the Windsor Fire Department was on hand at the monthly meeting of the Windsor Board of Commissioners to report the receipt of a $91,000 grant.

“Last March I made you aware that we were applying for a federal grant for what is commonly known as air packs,” Smithwick said. “I’m pleased to report we received the grant.”

According to the chief, the grant from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) was a 95 percent grant that had to be matched by a five percent local contribution.

“The good thing about it is we have 12 months to spend the money and close it out,” Smithwick said. “After speaking with the Administrator (Alan Castelloe), my recommendation is that we appropriate the match in the 2007-2008 budget.”

Smithwick said the local portion would only be a little more than $4,800 and that if the equipment were ordered in the next few days, it would still take 90 days for delivery and then another 30 to 60 days before payment would be due.

“I’m terribly delighted to get the grant because it saves us a lot of money,” the chief said.

Mayor Bob Spivey said he was also pleased to get the grant and was certain the town would match their portion and not turn down the money.

Smithwick then addressed the 18 air packs currently in use by the department, saying they wanted to make those available first to the local Bertie County fire departments at a reasonable price.

“If the county departments need them, I think we ought to give it to them,” Spivey said. “That’s just my opinion.”

Smithwick said he had been contacted by fire departments in Lewiston-Woodville, Perrytown and Powellsville.

Commissioner Bob Brown, who leads the board’s efforts in the area of fire and police, said he felt the departments expressing interest in the old air packs should be given the equipment, possible dividing them at six each.

“I think if you give the equipment to the other departments, then if you need an extra $1,000 or $2,000 for equipment, we’ll take that into consideration at budget time,” Spivey said.

Brown made a motion to match the grant in the ‘07-‘08 budget and give the old air packs away. Mayor Pro Tempore Jimmy Hoggard offered a second and it passed without objection.

After the vote, Smithwick also told the board Windsor would be the first fire department in North Carolina which will have a firefighter tracking system. That new system is part of what was ordered through the grant, he said.

“We’ll be on the leading edge of this technology,” Smithwick said. “I’m really excited about having the equipment and helping with the safety of our firefighters.”