By Julie McCaulley
Ilion, N.Y. - Senator James Seward met with area firefighters on 9/11 to unveil senate initiatives that will provide funding to three local fire departments, allowing them the opportunity to upgrade their aging equipment.
The grant, Seward announced, is a part of the 2009-10 state budget included, at his request, special funding to provide for essential emergency communication upgrades, equipment improvement and much needed renovations for local first responders.
“The senate funding will help enhance life saving services in Herkimer County, improving response time to emergency scenes and providing better-quality care for those in need,” said Seward, “This is a key, locally identified need that without the state funding would have been unavailable or put on the property tax.”
Officials from the Ilion Fire Department, the Kuyahoora Volunteer Ambulance Corporation and the Little Falls Fire Department who were in attendance welcomed the much needed funding.
“We applied for the grant in December 2008, figuring that with the economy in such rough shape, it would not be approved,” said Ilion Fire Chief James Trevett, “Then we got a phone call last week informing us that we would be receiving funds. Let me tell you, we were more than pleasantly surprised. This is really a great thing.”
Seward was able to obtain a total of $44,000 in senate allocated funds to the three area fire departments.
“The time was long overdue to offer our support to the people who risk their lives every single day,” said the Senator, “They keep our homes, businesses and, most importantly, our loved ones safe. It takes a special kind of person to shoulder the weighty responsibility of protecting their community. First responders enter burning buildings to come to the aid of friends, but more commonly, strangers.”
Little Falls will be using its $9,000 to purchase portable pagers for use by on and off-duty firefighters. In thanking Senator Seward, Fire Chief Robert Parese said, “We are a small department, so if something major arises we need to be able to get a hold of our off duty personnel and call them in. In the past, this has sometimes proved a challenge. These pagers will improve the lines of communication and allow us a faster response time.”
The Kuyahoora Ambulance Corps covers one of the largest districts in the state, covering more than 215 square miles. Crew members are scattered throughout the district, and there are many areas that are considered “dead zones” for communication devices. The lines of communication in the past have been tenuous at best. With the senate’s $15,000 in funding, the corps will be purchasing a new radio repeator system which will allow members to communicate while responding to emergencies. KVAC will also be able to upgrade its portable radios, bringing them into compliance with FCC regulations. “This grant money will go a long way to improving our response time,” said Kuyahoora Ambulance President Anthony Dischiavi. “In an emergency, open lines of communication can make a difference between life and death.”
The building that houses the Ilion Fire Department is 80 years old, and in need of renovations. The plumbing, particularly in the bathroom, is well past its prime.
“Right now, the guys come in after a call and have to take showers standing in six inches of water,” said Chief Trevett. The chief also noted that the problem has been around for quite a while, but stated, “It’s just one of those things that gets cut first from our budget every year. There always seemed to be something more in need of attention. The funding we received will allow us to gut out and replace the plumbing system.”
Thanks to the Ilion Firefighters Local 1185, which has pledged to do the work at no charge, the $20,000 received by the Ilion Fire Department will go towards materials as well as a few other small projects around the fire station.
In closing, Seward said, “Improved communication equipment will benefit our first responders as well as protect our residents, homes and businesses. I am glad that the senate could assist.”
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