(SALEM) - During weather emergencies such as an ice storm, the Washington County Sheriff's Department sometimes asks local volunteer fire departments to station someone at their respective fire stations in the event of an emergency.
Marcia Walker, of the Salem Leader reports, Andy Miller, chief of the Blue River Fire Department, is loath to ask his volunteers to spend any time in the building, located on Beck's Mill Road, because of mold that has crept it.
"I can't ask my guys to come down and hang out," Miller said. "Even sitting here for meetings, some of the guys get headaches."
Cecilia Peredo, with River Hills Economic Development District and who is helping the Blue River Fire District with the application process for a Community Focus Fund grant to cover costs of a new building, said the mold is a health hazard.
"It's so bad the chief doesn't want to ask the volunteers to come back to the station for roll call," Peredo said. "One entire section of a wall was completely black. A volunteer bleached it so it's white."
Miller said the mold most likely is the result of water leaking into the building. "It's an old building," Miller said, adding that lack of funds combined with lack of effort probably contributed to the building's condition. "It's in pretty bad shape."
That's not the only problem with the building. There is only room to park two of the department's three trucks inside and even then it's a tight squeeze. One truck is so long its front bumper brushes the front door while the back bumper is just inches from a support pole holding up a storage loft.
"It's not a good situation there," Peredo said.
The department's third truck is stored outside. Although a carport provides minimal protection, Miller said when temperatures are below freezing, the tank has to be drained. That delays firefighters when they respond to a brush fire, since they have to fill up at the scene from a tanker.
"That truck is a $100,000 piece of equipment, it's sitting outside and that's not good," Miller said.
Still another problem is access onto
Beck's Mill Road. When firefighters pull out onto the road, a small hill blocks the
view of oncoming traffic, setting up conditions for a wreck. "I'm surprised that hasn't happened," Miller said.
The cost of a new facility, which would be constructed on property where the Howard Township community building is now located, has been estimated at $614,045 - the maximum amount of a CFF grant is $400,000. Peredo said the Blue River Fire District hopes to obtain a loan to cover the rest of the cost.
She explained that applications for CFF funds are ranked according to a point system and are very competitive. A requirement is a 2 percent match, about $12,281 in the case of Blue River. The department could pick up 25 extra points by showing philanthropic support.
"The majority of applicants do have that support and therefore it is critical that we are able to get this 2 percent support from the community," Peredo stressed.
She said that the Washington County Community Foundation has its eye on the project, but has not made any commitments. However, the foundation has suggested that half of the 2 percent match, about $6,140, come from dona- tions from the community, channeled through the foundation.
In addition to making a donation to the foun- dation, Peredo said there are two other ways the community can help support the project. One is to attend a public meeting set for 6 p.m. Wednes- day, May 23, in the building behind the Beck's Mill store.
"The third thing they can do is write a letter of need, why they feel this project is needed," Peredo said. "They should state why it is needed (such as) the current station is located on the southern end of the township and I live on the other end of the township, or the proposed project is on a main artery or the new building would help response time."
The department has 16 volunteers and last year, made 45 runs, including fires, car accidents and first responder runs. Miller doesn't want a fancy building, just a functional facility.
"Mostly enough room to get all the equip- ment inside," he said. "That's our main goal . . . hopefully, we would have a little more room for an office."
Already, volunteers with the department are working hard at gathering the necessary infor- mation for the grant. They are conducting an income survey, 51 percent of the population ben- efiting from a CFF grant must be low or moderate income.
"They have a long 'to-do' list," Peredo said. "There will be a 200-page application when it's done."
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