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Vote Early – Vote Often!

POWELLSVILLE – It’s a firefighter’s version of “American Idol.”

The only difference is that members of the Powellsville Volunteer Fire Department (PVFD) do not have to sing or play a musical instrument to make an impression, but they still need your vote.

On Monday, PVFD officials were notified that their entry into a national contest was among the seven finalists. Now the only thing separating the Powellsville firemen from being the proud owners of a brand new, and free, fire truck is America’s vote.

The “Tell Us Your Story” contest, sponsored by E-One – a leading manufacturer of first responder vehicles based in Ocala, FL – attracted 651 entries.

The voting process is simple…log onto www.e-one.com and click on the “Vote Now” link at the top of the page. That will take you to the “Vote For The Best Story” page. There, all seven of the finalists are listed (complete with their individual stories). The Powellsville entry is the next to last one on the page. Click on the yellow “READ & VOTE” tab inside the Powellsville box. That will lead you to the Powellsville story. At the bottom of the entry is a yellow “VOTE” tab. Click that to cast your ballot for Powellsville. (Note: you must include your name, e-mail address, fire department’s name and answer two non-binding questions. Moments after casting the vote, you will receive an e-mail from info@e-one.com for confirmation purposes. All of this must be done in order for the vote to be officially recorded).

Voting ends at 12 noon on Friday, April 24. The winner will be announced at 3 p.m. that day.

“Anybody can vote; you don’t have to be with a fire department,” Powellsville Fire Chief David Powell said. “Please consider us with your vote; we are in desperate need of a new truck. We just don’t have the financial means to afford the payments on a new truck.”

To prove just how badly the PVFD needs a new truck, consider this one fact…the last new vehicle purchased by the department is a 1972 model.

“That’s still our ‘first-out’ pumper truck,” Powell noted of the 37-year-old vehicle. “We have other vehicles, but they’re all old and outdated. One of them is totally out of service because it needs a transmission and we can’t afford to make those repairs.”

Earlier this year, PVFD officials thought they had hammered out a grant/loan deal with USDA to purchase a new truck. However, that deal fell through when it was discovered that PVFD did not have enough operating capital to make the annual loan payments.

“That was very discouraging,” Powell said. “We do all we can to raise money in order to keep our doors open and our trucks running so we can serve the people of our little community, but it’s just not enough to make ends meet on the loan payments.”

Just after receiving the bad news from USDA, Powell said he went home and tossed all the paperwork in a pile to be later thrown in the trash. Little did he know was that his wife, Dr. Cheryl Powell (a Powellsville veterinarian) retrieved the discarded papers and, upon leaning of the E-One contest, decided to take matters in her own hands.

Working with PVFD member and local historian Ernie Carter, Dr. Powell drafted 15 letters. With the assistance of the staff at her veterinarian office, she finally chose the one to be submitted.

“Those guys try so hard, only to see one disappointment after another,” Dr. Powell said. “I saw that (crumpled) paperwork and knew something else had backfired on them. I felt compelled to do something to try and help.”

While admitting that she’s not much of a writer, Dr. Powell was proud that the Powellsville entry was among the seven finalists.

“We stand just as much of a chance to win that new fire truck as do the other six finalists,” she said. “Even if we don’t win, look at the national exposure we’ll gain out of this. Maybe some larger fire department with plenty of surplus equipment will reach out to us and help.”

“If we do win this thing, listen out for our siren at 3 p.m. on April 24,” said PVFD Assistant Chief Ralph Brinkley. “We’ll let all within ear shot know that we’ve won.”

Currently, PVFD operates on a $10,000 annual supplement from Bertie County. Of that amount, $9,000 is used to pay for insurance on the vehicles, fire station and the firefighters.

Over the years, PVFD members have generated operating capital through a variety of fundraisers…cutting and selling firewood, cooking and selling collards by the quart, conducting yard sales and bake sales and performing odd jobs for the general public. Their two major annual fundraisers are a pork barbecue meal in March and a turkey shoot in November.

The other six finalists are:

Butte Falls Volunteer Fire Department (Jackson County, Oregon);

Five Points Volunteer Fire Department (Washington County, Florida);

Gallatin Sunnyside Volunteer Fire Department (Allegheny County, Pennsylvania);

Hines Volunteer Fire Department (Hines, Oregon);

Oneida Volunteer Fire Department (Clay County, Kentucky); and

Weaverville Fire Department (Weaverville, California).

The department receiving the most votes will win a 2009 Tradition ES pumper, a vehicle valued at $185,000.

“Reading these entries, it’s obvious there is a great need for fire apparatus throughout the nation; we will be honored to be able to present one of these departments with a new Tradition ES pumper,” said Peter Guile, president of E-ONE. “We would like to thank everyone who sent in their story and good luck to the seven finalists.”