PSST Funds Support Renewal of Supply and Essential Purchases for Rural Fire Services | Local News
Cleveland County Rural Fire Departments are seeing the benefits of a public safety sales tax that has allowed them to update and purchase much needed fire and medical equipment.
In November 2019, constituents in the county approved a 20-year, one-eighth-cent sales tax, part of which covers the critical safety needs of fire departments struggling with funding. So far, 22 grant applications totaling $ 550,633 have been funded for firefighting and rescue equipment.
âIn particular, rural fire departments have not had the means to really finance their operations as this contributes to their safety and the maintenance of their equipment. They were interested in joining the PSST to see if they could get additional funds for the things they needed, âsaid Commissioner Harold Haralson, who was the organizer of the PSST vote.
The tax was passed just before the county jail’s quarter-cent tax funding expired. Haralson said some entities had approved an additional eighth-cent tax for other services, but unincorporated areas of the county now pay less.
The tax goes up to $ 500,000 for fire services and $ 100,000 for the needs of emergency services.
In October, county fire chiefs began meeting with a council every month to discuss needs across the county. The council then votes on the projects to send to the commissioners this month for approval.
Haralson said that once needs are identified, commissioners can usually respond fairly quickly. Funds are distributed based on each fiscal year, which begins July 1 and ends June 30.
” This is exceptional. It was something that saved a small department like ours, âCedar Country Fire Chief Darren Alexander said. âThe PSST Fund has made a big difference to our ministry.
Alexander said the PSST funds have been a boon to the small department, which has two stations and 18 volunteers.
Cedar Country grant funding was used for several purchases, including an extractor and dryer cabinet. Extractors wash firefighting equipment with low water and high rotational speeds to extract carcinogens, while drying cabinets allow firefighters to dry their equipment faster, Alexander said. Without a dryer, the equipment could take at least a day to dry.
Grant funding also allowed the ministry to replace its mining tools, including spreaders and battery knives. While the old gear was hydraulic and built in the ’90s, the new tools are lighter and more mobile, with the ability to cut beyond 180 degrees, Alexander said.
âIt absolutely made a huge difference just in the year we were allowed to take advantage of it,â he said of the PSST fund. “Everyone who voted on this, we absolutely appreciate it.”
At Little Ax, the grant enabled the fire department to purchase a new Dodge Ram utility vehicle with an RV shell, emergency lighting and a radio. Little Ax Fire Chief Keith Shykes said the new vehicle means he doesn’t have to use his 2006 personal truck on fire calls.
He also said the department, which has 21 volunteers, now has road safety equipment to protect firefighters who help at wreckage scenes, as well as forest call and rescue equipment.
The department primarily responds to wilderness calls and uses the equipment harshly and often, he said.
âThis PSST has totally changed the way we do business,â said Shykes. âIt allowed us to move things forward on our strategic plan, right at the top of the list. Things that were five to ten year old items that we can buy now. Basically our normal income supports operations throughout the year, but it does not take into account replacement of equipment, purchase of new equipment, improvement / increase in our capabilities.
Lexington Fire Department chief Max Punneo said if the PSST money was not available, his department could not have afforded two used engines and pumper. The engines Lexington purchased with its grant allowed the department to replace a 1989 model and place a 1995 model on reserve.
Before the department, which has 20 volunteers, received an extractor and dryer with the grant money, it had to use extractors and dryers in nearby fire departments, Punneo said.
” Everybody is happy. Getting new equipment improves your overall service. It helps everyone, and it also helps your citizens, âPunneo said, adding that many county fire departments work together through mutual aid and often train together.
Noble fire chief Phil Scott said his department has benefited twice from the grant money. At Noble, emergency services do not depend on the fire department and Scott has received funds to support both services.
The service has 13 full-time firefighters and 11 volunteers, and provides medical assistance to the Slaughterville and Cedar Country fire districts.
Noble was able to purchase video laryngoscopes, annual subscriptions for remote viewing of Zoll heart monitors and manual monitors and defibrillators, among other supplies.
Scott said laryngoscopes, used to place tracheal tubes, come with cameras and heart monitors are replacing models made in 2009 that were not working properly. The majority of Noble’s calls are medical, he said.
âThis will help us help them. I congratulate the riding for adopting this tax. It has really been a good thing, âsaid Scott. âHe buys us equipment that – I don’t know what we would do. … this is something we must have [for patients]. “