Fire departments receive funding

Published 6:00 am Thursday, April 15, 2021

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The Charlotte County Board of Supervisors voted to give the county’s seven fire departments $80,000 each for the upcoming budget year during a meeting Monday, April 12.

The currently proposed budget sets aside $55,000 for each department, but the board approved giving each department an additional $25,000 each in one-time funding.

According to County Administrator Dan Witt, portions of the $190,000 left in the CARES Act funds will be used to cover the additional $25,000.

“If financial details can be worked out, then the departments will receive the additional $25,000 before July 1,” Witt said.

Supervisors are currently in the budget work session process and have held two sessions.

During the board’s March 30 budget work session, Charlotte County Fire and Rescue Association President Walt Bailey requested $75,000 in funding for each department.

Bailey said each department needs to be at this level of funding for more than just one year in order to remain operational.

“In order for us to hold our heads above water we need to get our departments to $75,000 each,” Bailey said, “Until we get to that, we are going to continue to sink.”

The fire departments did receive a portion of the county’s CARES Act funds in 2020 and were able to update some equipment.

Along with requesting additional funding for the fire department, Bailey also requested hiring a full-time fire and EMS coordinator.

According to Bailey, this person should be both a fire and EMS instructor who could provide all the training. He/she could work on grant funding as well as ensure all agencies are working to maintain compliance with federal and state mandates.

“The right person in that position will pay for that funding,” Bailey said.

Bailey also suggested organizing departments into fire and EMS to take advantage of federal funding.

“Currently, due to budget cuts on the federal level, we no longer can compete with larger departments for these funds and are disqualified due to our smaller individual numbers,” Bailey said. “If we were codified as a whole, we could qualify and compete with other counties that are getting these funds. These grants could provide the county with funding to replace turnout gear, air packs and trucks.”

The supervisors did not take action on those requests during Monday’s meeting.