Kind helps 'grant' fire department's wish
When James Ley of the Menomonie Police and Fire Commission commented on Fire Chief John Baus’ official-looking attire before Monday’s press conference announcing a new ladder truck for the fire department, Baus didn’t miss a beat.
“Hey, I’ll dress up however you want for three-quarters of a million dollars,” Baus said.
Baus, Ley, Mayor Dennis Kropp, Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI) of the state’s Third District and a host of others were on hand at the North Side Fire Station for the presentation of a $675,000 Assistance to Firefighters Grant check to the city for a new ladder truck.
The Homeland Security grant — which was conditional on the city council kicking another 10 percent for a $750,000 truck — was one of only a few like handed out in the entire country this grant cycle.
“We’re really excited,” Baus said. “This is a huge event for the city of Menomonie and for the Menomonie Fire Department. Receiving this money is going to directly help us with our biggest priorities — the life safety of our citizens and our firefighters and property conservation for our residence.”
The grant, which came about because some hard work and lobbying from Kropp, Baus, City Administrator Lowell Prange, Kind and others, will be used to purchase a new ladder truck in the coming months. The department’s current ladder truck is 35 years old and has been saddled with various performance issues of late.
“The fire department and the city of Menomonie are tremendously grateful to Congressman Kind, his office and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA),” Baus said. “We know this wouldn’t have been a reality without all of their help. This is the top dollar grant, and it’s rare to receive one like this.”
Kind said it’s important that the people helping to keep communities safe have the right tools and the right equipment.
“I’ve been a big supporter of the firefighter grant program because I see what impact it has,” Kind said. “With budgets like they are now, every little bit helps. When you have a 35-year-old truck with no heat being held together with glue and tape, this is going to go a long way toward making sure these firefighters have the right tools and resources.”
The congressman said one lasting image he will always have is of the New York City firefighters heading into the World Trade Center buildings on Sept. 11, 2001.
“I will never ever forget September 11th,” Kind said. “Those images of firefighters going into the Twin Towers when there were thousands of people trying to get out are etched into all of our memories. That’s what they do and that’s what we ask them to do. I’m really here to say thank you for all that (firefighters) do, and I think we need to do that every chance we get.”
Kind said that he was very pleased that Menomonie was able to secure such a rare grant opportunity.
“These are tough grants,” Kind said. “I’m glad that the Menomonie Fire Department, along with the support of Mayor Kropp and the city administration and city council, put together a solid application process. These grants are based on need, and they were able to get that through.”
Baus said the department has looked at four trucks and is scheduled to look at least a few more before deciding on a new rig.
“We’re just trying to look at different models that may work to best suit our needs here,” he said. “After a few weeks, we’ll go into the next phase because we’re going to have to put it out for bids.”
Baus added that the new truck will have a better overall reach to 100 or 105 feet, while the current truck is able to reach a distance of just 85 feet.
“The stability of the newer vehicles is also very improved,” Baus said. “That lends itself to safety, and we’re able to put more people on the truck and flow more water through it. This is something that has been on everybody’s minds for a number of years and I know everyone is excited about this.”
The fire chief said the city will likely put the current truck up for sale once the new one is secured.