State Senator John J. Bonacic (R/I/C - Mt. Hope) today announced that he has secured $400,000 in funding to help fire departments in Sullivan County purchase needed equipment such as turnout gear, "jaws of life," SCBA units, defibrillators, and thermal imaging cameras.
The funding will be administered by Sullivan County Public Safety Commissioner Richard Martinkovic. "Each department in Sullivan County has essential equipment needs which go unfulfilled. This funding will help every department meet needs such as radios, turnout gear, and SCBA units. I applaud the Senator for, again, making our volunteer firefighters a priority in the State budget," Martinkovic said.
Senator Bonacic said, "Since September 11th, we have heard more than ever about the need to support our firefighters. Words of support are appropriate, but government at all levels must actually provide the resources our firefighters need to do their job. When the alarm goes off in the middle of the night, they do not ask who needs help or hope someone else answers the call. ‘Hero’ is a word that is used a lot these days, but is never more appropriate than when used to describe a firefighter."
This is not the first initiative Senator Bonacic has undertaken to support Sullivan County’s fire departments. Sullivan County is the only county in Bonacic’s Senate District without a fire training facility. In 2002, also in conjunction with Mr. Martinkovic and a group of volunteer firefighters, Bonacic launched an effort to build a fire training center for Sullivan County’s firefighters - securing $1.15 million through the Senate for the project. "The amazing courage shown by volunteers who run into buildings when others are trying to get out never ceases to amaze me. The least we can do is help ensure they have proper training and equipment," Senator Bonacic said.
Paul Hemmer, Chairman of the Sullivan County Volunteer Firefighters Association, said, "Departments are already having a hard time recruiting volunteers. Lack of equipment makes the job much harder for those who are in the volunteer service. This funding is essential to each Department in the County."
A 2001 study commissioned by the Fireman’s Association of the State of New York demonstrated annual savings of $3 billion a year to taxpayers through volunteer firefighters. If volunteers went away, county property taxes would increase an average of 15%.
Sullivan County Legislator Leni Binder, Chairwoman of the Public Safety Committee said, "This type of support for our firefighters is something that every elected official ought to imitate and build upon. We cannot thank our firefighters enough. Their sacrifice is something that is irreplaceable."
Senator Bonacic has secured similar funding in the past for the Ulster, Delaware, and Orange County fire departments in his Senate District. "I will continue to make the support of our volunteer firefighters one of my highest priorities. They deserve as much support from the public, and from State and Federal leaders as we can give them," concluded Senator Bonacic.