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Mikulski visits fire hall

October 28, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

WILLIAMSPORT - With the re-election campaign of U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., in its final days, the senator spent time Wednesday thanking members of the Williamsport Volunteer Fire Co. for their service to the community.

Mikulski was on hand to help the company celebrate a $135,990 grant awarded through the federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, which she helped establish in 2001.

Nearly two dozen people, including firefighters and representatives from the Washington County Commissioners, Williamsport Town Council and various Democratic clubs from the area were on hand during her brief stop.

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Mikulski said the program, which awards one-year grants to fire departments nationwide for purposes such as training and equipment purchases, is crucial in helping smaller organizations serve their communities.

She said "bake sales, fish fries and tip jars" are not enough to raise the money that groups in smaller communities need to operate properly.

"They do this on their own time, and we were telling them (before the program was started) to do it on their own dime," Mikulski said.

Mikulski said volunteers in areas such as Williamsport do not have the same resources as those in larger communities, but they match up in "heart and sweat equity," and deserve assistance as a result.

The company was awarded the grant, from the Department of Homeland Security's Office for Domestic Preparedness, in late September. In 2004, more than 20,000 departments nationwide sought funding totaling more than $2.6 billion through the program.

Since 2001, 11 Washington County fire departments have received about $1.75 million through the federal program, according to information released by Mikulski's office.

The fire company plans to use the money to upgrade suppression nozzles, replace self-contained breathing apparatus with safer apparatus and to buy a new station ventilation system, Williamsport Chief Will Ball said.

"That equates to about five years of 52 bingo nights a year," Ball said of the cost.

Ball praised Mikulski and her staff for their help in researching grants and drafting requests for money.

"She and her staff have done a tremendous job of keeping us informed," he said. "It was a wonderful surprise that she could find time to come to the community to celebrate with us today."

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