Commissioners say American Rescue funds can not be used to help volunteer fire departments

BEDFORD – Marshall Township Fire Department Chief Jason Lewis on behalf of all the Lawrence County volunteer fire departments requested during the commissioner meeting Tuesday morning that the commissioners distribute a large sum from the 4.4 million of the American Rescue Plan funds to the area departments.

Jason Lewis

The commissioners have hired Baker Tilly Municipal Advisors to advise the commissioners on how to properly spend the funds.

According to Lewis, the volunteer fire departments are in dire need of funding.

“We have had three departments fold because of costs,” said Lewis. “All of the departments have significant needs and we are asking for a major infusion of funds into the departments.”

However, Commissioner Dustin Gabhart said the commissioners’ hands are tied and they can not use the funds to help the departments, according to Baker Tilly advisors.

Dustin Gabhart

Commissioner Rodney Fish said the funds can only be spent in a “very limited narrow” way.

Rodney Fish

But all three commissioners said they have asked about the request, however, “It just doesn’t look good,” added Gabhart.

Lewis requested permission from the commissioners in July to apply for a Public Feasibility Fund Grant to build a new fire station in July. The commissioners approved his request but the department will not receive the grant this year.

The department is still moving forward with plans to build a new fire station and has hired an architect to create the design plans.