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An astounding amount of money

By Staff | Feb 21, 2011

It’s pretty amazing, when you actually think about it.

Fire departments and ambulance squads in Faribault County received a huge amount of money last week.

The total grant, which came to the Blue Earth Fire Department, was for $832,343.

I don’t care who you are, that is a chunk of change.

Of course, as you first read in the Faribault County Register last week, the money will be split up between all of the emergency response organizations in the county – fire and ambulance – for the purchase of new 800 megahertz radios.

To put the $832,000 into some perspective, the total amount of money dispersed in the Feb. 11 Round 11 of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Fire Act Grants was $1,299,496.

Faribault County received 64 percent of the money.

Since last November, the total of the 11 Fire Act Grants is $11,512,280. Each round dispersed grants to dozens of Minnesota fire departments.

Nearly 10 percent of the total has gone to Faribault County.

I think we can safely say that we have “gotten our share.”

While the grant covers all of Faribault County, it had to be submitted in the name of one fire department, and that was Blue Earth.

Sheriff Mike Gormley and Chief Deputy Scott Adams assisted in helping with the grant, because they will assist with the purchase of the radios.

But, both say the credit for the grant should include former sheriff’s deputy – and former Blue Earth Fire Chief – Terry Campbell, who wrote the grant and was its major promoter.

Gormley and Adams say that they are sure the grant came through with such a large amount because it was a cooperative effort among the various agencies in the county.

Almost all of the other grants given out since last November went to individual departments, and, were considerable smaller.

The change in the whole story of the county going from the current radio system to the new 800 megahertz system has been nothing short of remarkable.

When the County Board was first approached about the change over, the number was staggering. Campbell, Gormley and Adams told the board it could be as much as $4.2 million.

Understandable, commissioners were a bit upset, and questioned the need to make such an expensive switch.

Plus, they wondered how the county would ever be able to afford such a change, especially with the state cutting funding left and right.

The members of the sheriff’s department said they were applying for grants to help out with the expense, but the county board still had to discuss bonding for the radio purchases.

Then, two things happened.

First, the cost of the radios started to drop. While they are still incredibly expensive, they are almost half of what they were a year ago.

Second, the grants did come in. Especially the big one.

Oh, there still will be expense to the local taxpayer.

The big grant is about $50,000 short of the estimated cost of the radios. This means the local fire departments and ambulance squads will need to come up with the money.

Plus, the sheriff’s department is still short for the purchase of their radios.

Cities in the county will have to purchase their own radios for the their public works departments. Putting one in every city vehicle will cost a few bucks.

Adams says the county is not done sending in applications for more grants for the radios, but I’m not sure they should hold their breath.

With Governor Mark Dayton and President Barack Obama presenting budgets which are slashing payments to all sorts of entities, grants for things like radios may be a thing of the past.

Good thing the county put in their application when they did.