SNOW HILL – Local fire companies will use $1.5 million in federal relief funds for a variety of capital purchases.
Fire company officials have decided to split the $1.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds provided by Worcester County among the county’s 10 companies. Each company will get $150,000 to help pay for things like equipment, vehicles and renovations.
“There’s a lot of needs,” Ocean City Fire Chief Richie Bowers said. “For fire and EMS to get ARPA funds is phenomenal.”
In July, the Worcester County Commissioners agreed to dedicate $1.5 million of the county’s ARPA funds to fire and EMS. At the time, the commissioners said they’d let fire company leadership determine how to spend the money, as fire company officials had already developed a list of more than $4 million in what they said were critical needs.
“The chiefs were saying the system was fragile and some were one step away from having a problem,” Commissioner Jim Bunting said.
The commissioners instructed them to determine how the funding could best be used to bolster the system.
“They had a job deciding how to do that,” Bunting said.
According to Bowers, representatives from the various fire companies met several times to determine how best to use the funding. This month they agreed that they’d split the money evenly, with $150,000 going to each fire company.
“Fire and EMS got together and identified specific needs and identified where the funds would be best invested,” Bowers said. “It certainly fills in several of the gaps the fire and EMS service in Worcester County is experiencing.”
The funding can’t be used for personnel. Instead, it will be used for capital projects.
“These projects must adhere to strict guidelines,” Bower said.
He said fire departments were working with Worcester County’s administration to make sure the capital items identified would qualify as appropriate uses of the federal funding. The departments are working with the county’s procurement officer to ensure they get good pricing on what they need. Bowers said that with the ARPA funding and the ongoing efforts of Worcester County’s fire and EMS workgroup, progress was being made on local fire and EMS needs.
“We’ve made tremendous progress and most importantly we have an open dialogue,” he said. “It has helped educate everyone what the needs are and where the gaps are in order for us to prop up our system.”