By Lindsay Owens Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald
---- — Washington's fire department now has a new pumper truck thanks in part to a Community Facilities Grant. The United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development approved the $48,000 grant and presented Fire Chief Dave Rhoads and Mayor Joe Wellman with the check Tuesday morning.
"USDA Rural Development's community programs seek to improve the quality of life in rural America through a variety of loan and grant programs for water and waste disposal projects, essential community facilities, and electric utilities and communications," said USDA Rural Development Indiana State Director Phil Lehmkuhler.
Receiving the grant money through the program has been a few years and several hours in the making due to administrative changes.
"We originally filled out the application for the grant in March of 2010," said Rhoads. "We had to take three bids, run ads in the newspaper and have a public hearing at a city council meeting."
Rhoads said that in July or August of 2011, then-Mayor Larry Haag was approached with the possibility of receiving $48,000 to apply to the purchase of a new truck for the department. "The mayor accepted and now through the process today, we are in the final stage of the application. They have to see the truck," said Rhoads.
"We appreciate the assistance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in this project," said Wellman. "They, too, see the benefits of this new truck to the citizens of our city. Besides having another truck in the department's inventory, this truck updates the fleet and will extend the useful life of the other trucks of the department."
According to a press release, USDA Rural Development has recently funded six other ventures throughout the state. "These grants and loans are in keeping with the mission of USDA Rural Development which is to provide equity and technical assistance to fiance and foster growth in home ownership, business development and critical community and technology infrastructure," said Lehmkuhler. "Rural Development appreciates the dangerous job done by those who serve as firefighters. It is our hope that these funds will help to make their jobs safer and the citizens of Washington more secure."
Wellman said the city had been putting funds back in the fire department's budget in anticipation of purchasing a new truck for quite some time.
"When I took office, I took a serious look at the city and departmental budgets and decided it was time to move forward on this project," he said. "Because we have been prudent at saving money in those budgets, we've now been able to make a large cash down payment, and coupled with this USDA grant, results in the city needing to finance less than 50 percent of the cost of the truck."
Only financing roughly half of the total cost of the new truck will save the city thousands in interest over the next five or six years.