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WATCH: Congressman Loebsack Hopes to Help Small Public Safety Departments Get Grant Funds

By Nick Davis, October 30, 2017

Congressman Dave Loebsack made several stops to Southeast Iowa on Monday. The Congressman was visiting with local fire and police departments to help determine their needs and wants in dealing with the federal government. We caught up with him at the Eldon Volunteer Fire Department.

“I’m here then I’ll be in Centerville. I’ll do a ride along with one of the police officers there,” Loebsack told Ottumwa Radio News. “This is something I like to do on a regular basis. We try to help these small departments in particular with federal grants as best as we can. That’s something I think we can improve upon as far as the process is concerned.”

Eldon Fire Chief Linda Manley said her department received grant funds from the federal government following the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. She adds though that the money quickly dried up and her department hasn’t received a grant from the federal government in approximately 10-12 years, even though they’ve applied every year.

“The grant writing process, it really needs to be done by someone who knows how to write grants,” Manley said. “That takes money. These people don’t do it for free. So you have to pay someone to write it and your still not guaranteed that you’ll get the grant. The wording on these grants is so picky on what they want that it is really hard to write a good grant yourself.”

Loebsack says his goal is to work with departments, like Eldon’s, who have had trouble getting the attention of federal agencies.

“This is a public safety issue. We’ve got to make sure that these fire departments, who are really the first and last line of defense in communities like this, we have to make sure they have the equipment and the folks here getting the training so we can assist people especially in these rural communities,” Loebsack added.

Manley adds that her department has a long list of wants and needs. “We need new SCBA, which is our air packs. Some of them need new gear. Last year, we attempted to fund a new truck through that, we were turned down, but we’ve remediated that situation since.”

The department used funds from the annual haunted house to purchase a new brush truck. She says departments, like Eldon’s, have to get creative when it comes to fundraising.

Loebsack adds that he wants to protect grants to firefighters that others in Washington DC have cut over the years.

“We have to make sure that the funds are there at the federal level to begin with,” the Congressman adds. “Every year, I write a letter to the appropriators asking that we do everything we can to make sure those are fully funded.”

Funds funneled from Washington DC to local fire departments are normally contained in the Federal Emergency Management Administration’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program.
The grant program recently funded $80,000 for the Packwood Fire Department in Jefferson County for the purchase of Personal Protective Equipment and $180,000 to the same department for the purchase of a new vehicle. Other area departments receiving AFG grant funds this year include the Chariton Fire Department, Richland Fire Department and the Birmingham Fire Department.

**An earlier version of this article stated that the Eldon Fire Department used funds from the haunted house to purchase the “Queen Mary Fire Engine.” Eldon Fire Chief Linda Manley clarified that the funds from the haunted house were used to purchase the department’s new brush truck, and that the City of Eldon purchased the Queen Mary. 

 

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