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Woodland VFD seeks county funds

JACKSON – Even though there isn’t enough money in the county’s nonprofit fund for a whole new fire department building, the Northampton County Board of Commissioners agreed to direct the Woodland Volunteer Fire Department to other resources that may be able to help.

The request came before the board at their regular meeting here on Monday, Jan. 4. Northampton’s Economic Development Director, Franklin Williams, presented the funding application from the Woodland VFD.

Their application requested a total of $127,453 to be used for the demolition of the old fire department building as well as constructing its new replacement. The figure also includes the estimated cost of sending materials to the landfill and permits needed for construction.

In their application, the fire department, which serves Woodland and the surrounding communities, explained their current building was originally built in 1951 and is a state of disrepair, most notably in the floor where the cracked concrete had to be replaced with sand and rock. The application also stated a new building would help the fire department better serve the area and allow them to return their focus to continuing certifications and maintaining equipment.

The News Herald previously reported on a community event in Woodland in Oct. 2019 which gathered together various stakeholders, including a representative from Congressman G.K. Butterfield’s office, to look at various projects within the town. Representatives from the fire department explained at the event their concerns about the old building, noting the foundation was sinking and rain often created problems with mud inside the building itself.

Speaking to the commissioners at Monday’s meeting, Williams noted that Woodland VFD met the qualifications to receive money from the nonprofit fund, but the requested amount is well above what the county has available.

The Board first established their nonprofit fund in 2019 to provide grants to local nonprofits. Their goal is to support local organizations which will, in turn, benefit the county’s citizens. A total of $20,000 was allocated for the current fiscal year, and only $9,700 remains in the fund after grants were awarded to several organizations in August and September 2020.

Organizations which received grants from the nonprofit fund this fiscal year include the Community Senior Enhancement Program in Severn ($5,000), the Lake Gaston Community Center ($2,000), the National Center for Missing and Endangered, Inc. ($1,000), the Gaston Volunteer Fire & Rescue Squad ($1,300), and Hannah’s Place ($1,000).

Williams’ recommendation was to help the fire department look into other funding options.

Board Chair Charles Tyner agreed, suggesting that the fire department could maybe receive grant funding from USDA or Golden Leaf. He also noted they had previously gotten in touch with state and federal government representatives to see if they could find help for the department.

“I think we need to look at all those avenues,” he said.

Tyner directed Williams and County Manager Charles Jackson to contact the department and see what kind of connections and support they could provide.

The commissioners took no vote on whether or not to award any county funding to Woodland VFD.

At the end of the discussion, Commissioner Geneva Faulkner pointed out this was the second application which requested an amount much larger than what they had available. She suggested they add a disclaimer to the application to let applicants know that the funding could be used for smaller projects.