Two SC volunteer fire departments awarded AEDC funds

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The Williford Fire Department will soon see the completion of a project four years in the making.

According to Williford Fire Chief Bill Cossey, the department recently received a $6,500 grant from the Arkansas Economic Development Council (AEDC) which when paired with matching funds, will enable the department to pave the driveway of the newest addition.

“We’re going to pour the driveway to this new building. It is very steep and in the summer it’s not so bad, but in the winter, you can get a truck in there but you have to pull it in and it is difficult. If you try to get in with a vehicle that doesn’t have water on it, you won’t get in. You have to have a four-wheel drive if you want to move something,” Cossey said.

Cossey said this was the fourth time the department had gone through the AEDC in efforts to complete the building project.

“The first year they did away with the General Improvement Fund Grant and we were awarded another kind, it was just enough to pour the slab for the building. We’ve worked on it a little at a time over the years, but it is something we have really needed,” Cossey said.

Although the department has a main fire house, the bays are not large enough to accommodate newer apparatus.

“We ended up having to do more with the new building than we thought we would. The retaining wall for example, we didn’t think we’d have to do that, but we looked at it and knew down the road, maybe 10 years, it could be an issue. We only needed one bay, but our fire truck is an 84’ model, but the newer trucks are getting longer and longer,” Cossey said. “So, we built a 2,000 square foot building that would hold new trucks if the time comes. We built it so we could get just about anything in.”

Cossey said up to five trucks, which is the total number owned by the department can be housed in the new facility.

“AEDC has another grant which takes the place of the GIF grant for up to $50,000 and next year, we’re going to start working on another project. Our lighting in the base station needs to be replaced, insulation is an issue,” Cossey said. “One thing I would like to mention is that all of the money we received, we put back locally by hiring local and buying supplies locally. People have been good to support us throughout the years and we like to return the favor when we can.”

According to a release from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Williford was not the only department in Sharp County to receive funds.

On Oct 24, Gov. Asa Hutchinson presented $75,000 to Town of Sidney from Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) Rural Services Division at a ceremony at the Arkansas State Capitol.

“In total, some $1.35 million was awarded to 49 communities throughout Arkansas.

Town of Sidney will receive funding to purchase turnout gear, ladders, vent saw, transfer pump, AED’s, and radios for the fire department,” the release said. “The grants fall into one of three programs: the Rural Community Grant Program, the County Fair Building Grant Program, and the Rural Services Block Grant Program. Most require a 50 percent matching grant to be eligible for the programs.”

“A total of $318,505 was awarded to 28 cities and counties under the Rural Community Grant Program. Applicants from incorporated towns of less than 3,000 in population and unincorporated rural areas are eligible for up to $15,000 in matching funds under the program for community development and fire protection projects.

A total of $23,657.55 was awarded to six counties under the County Fair Building Grant Program. Under the program, county fairs located in counties with a population of less than 55,000 are eligible for up to $4,000 per fiscal year for construction, renovation or general improvements of buildings or purchase of items shown to directly improve the building or the services that the county fair association may provide.

A total of $997,115.16 was awarded to 15 communities and counties under the Rural Services Block Grant program to fund new construction or renovation of community centers, fire stations, or multi-purpose buildings, and the purchase of fire trucks (pumper, tanker, brush or certain service trucks) and fire-fighting equipment. Grants are up to $75,000, with a required match of 10 percent that may be comprised of in-kind labor, in-kind materials or cash. Only incorporated towns and rural communities with a population of less than 3,000 with at least 51 percent in the low- to moderate-income category are eligible.”

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