Florence fire department receives $44,000 grant years ago

City will provide $2,328 in matching funds


News editor

In a time of tight budgets and reduced services in many small towns, Florence City Council members Monday night received some good news from fire chief Tim Parmley.

During his regular report, Parmley announced that his department is the recipient of a grant for $46,560 from the United States Department of Homeland Security. To receive the money, the city will have to contribute "matching funds" in the amount of $2,328. Councilman Trayce Warner moved to approve the expense, Randy Mills seconded the motion, and it was approved unanimously.

The funds will be used to purchase bunker gear and other personal safety equipment for Florence firemen. But Parmley said he had not yet received exact guidelines about what the department might purchase.

"We know it is for personal equipment and safety items, but we don't know if that includes radios, flashlights, boots, or helmets," said Parmley. "They'll let us know what we can get."

Bunker gear the department currently is using will be sorted out and the best kept for use by youngsters enrolled in the cadet program. "We don't know for sure how much of it we'll keep," said Parmley. "Since we have a cadet program we'll take care of them first, then we'll look at options for the rest."

Parmley said there is another round of grant applications due by April 1 and he intends to fill out the applications again. Parmley and his wife, Janette, learned of the grant opportunity at the state fire chiefs convention last spring. While talking to a sales representative of Municipal Emergency Services they found out about grants available to small town departments. They got the forms, talked to a contact person for some basic assistance, and went to work filling out the application.

Janette Parmley said it was a lot of work, but worth it. "Hey, I'd like to have my husband protected by new equipment instead of the 15- to 20-year-old stuff they've been using," she said. "I was happy to help."

Another issue of city services and unexpected cost issues arose during the past weekend when the city's water plant failed.

At 10 a.m. Saturday, water plant operator Larry Scriven found that plant one had shut down and the computer system had sent a message to plant two to also shut down. After spending most of the day rounding up emergency assistance from other communities and communicating with system engineers in Colorado Springs, Colo., water was trucked in from Peabody by tankers from Gorges Dairy. By evening Saturday the water tower was nearly full and a crew of technicians was standing by in Colorado, awaiting orders to head to Florence.

City superintendent Phil Baldwin told council members that a representative of Kaye Electric urged him to call American Controls Engineering Services at Valley Center before activating the request for technicians from Colorado, who would require a $4,000 stipend just to travel to Florence.

Baldwin contacted ACES and within hours had a list of replacement equipment and parts to keep the plant operational at considerable savings over the Colorado company.

After discussion, Florence council members gave unanimous approval to Baldwin's request to work with ACES. During the mayor's report, Winn requested that Baldwin and Scriven document all the events of the weekend including names and phone numbers of contact people.

A final issue of impact for the community was dealt with swiftly. Following discussion with Marion County Planning and Zoning director Bobbi Strait, council members voted to approve an order of demolition for the former school buildings currently owned by Karen Noll Hastings and her husband of El Dorado.

Council members approved a public hearing Jan. 21 to discuss demolition of the buildings. Strait said there might be a chance to save the brick building if she could get inside to survey the damage. But her opinion of the limestone building still carried a "$1 million-plus price tag" to save it. Thirty days after the Jan. 21 meeting the city will be able to demolish the buildings. Strait outlined deadlines, legal ramifications, liability, and other issues.

Council members agreed to move forward with the procedure.

In other business, the council:

— approved a $1,400 expenditure for a new air compressor for the water plant. Baldwin also was instructed to make a list of additional needed parts and system equipment and bring the information to the next meeting.

— heard from Baldwin the city owes a debt of thanks to several communities, organizations, and businesses for their help during the weekend. He and Winn thanked Gorges Dairy and its truck drivers, the cities of Peabody and Hillsboro, the Florence fire and police departments, Kaye Electric, Bruce Fetrow, and American Controls Engineering Services. Additional council members added their thanks.

— approved a resolution pledging support for a housing plan by Overland Property Group to renovate the former nursing home into an affordable housing complex.

— requested Tim Parmley coordinate electrical services compatible with the fire department generator in several community buildings. Because of recent weather problems in parts of Marion County, council members were anxious to have service in place in case of severe weather. The city building, ambulance building, and gymnasium building will serve as community shelters if necessary. The generator has the capacity to keep utilities operational in any of the proposed shelter areas.

— heard that city accounting firm Knudson and Monroe will be reviewing city finances Wednesday.

— heard Florence Chamber of Commerce will host a volunteer fair and a volunteer appreciation dinner in March. The event will not be limited to Florence volunteers; it will be open to all Marion County communities.

— heard from Mayor Winn that it is likely the district will be willing to have ownership of the school property occupied by Marion County Special Education Cooperative transferred to the city by the council's next meeting Jan. 21.

— heard from fire chief Tim Parmley that Florence fire department responded to a county request for four-wheel-drive vehicles during the ice storm. The county used vehicles carrying teams of emergency personnel to check on people in outlying areas who may have been unable to get out or communicate with family or neighbors. Florence sent two vehicles to assist in the work.

— approved the purchase of four used tires for the fire department Hummer at a cost of $90 each plus $25 for mounting. Also approved was the purchase of new radio chargers and batteries at a cost of $440.