By JEFF SCHULTZ
Twice is nice.
For the second year in a row, representatives from various fire departments
around Porter County filled the center rows of the County Commissioners’
chambers Tuesday to see the Commissioners agree to a 20 percent match of an
Assistant to Firefighters Grant (AFG).
The grant in the amount of $851,978 comes from the Federal Emergency
Management Agency, said Portage Fire Chief Tom Fieffer. He said with the new
grant, 81 mobile truck radios and 44 portable “walky-talky” radios will be
purchased and divided among eight fire stations.
Last year, the Portage FD won the AFG grant and was able to purchase radio
equipment worth $926,437 for Portage and the towns of Chesterton, Porter,
Beverly Shores, Westville, and Liberty Twp.
This year, radios will be given to Burns Harbor and Union Twp. FDs.
Fieffer told the Tribune the departments will have a meeting on April
l first to decide who gets what.
The radios, he said, will be “all digital,” have narrowbanding compliant
with FCC regulations, and be able to work on an 800 megahertz dispatch
channel to operate with the County’s radio dispatch system.
The equipment will be purchased through Motorola with a warrantee up to five
years, Fieffer said, but the radios can last up to 20 years or more if the
firefighters take good care of them.
The Commissioners unanimously approved the 20 percent match at about
$170,000 with County Economic Development Income (CEDIT) tax dollars pending
approval from the County Council.
Fieffer and Porter County 911 Communications Director John Jokantas said
that because of the two AFG grants, the County has received roughly $1.7
million in equipment at a cost of $355,682, a difference of almost $1.35
None of the local municipalities will have to pay costs for the match, the
two men pointed out.
Fieffer got permission from the Commissioners to pursue a grant for next
year for other fire departments in need of upgrades.
“Third time’s a charm,” said County Commissioner Nancy Adams, R-Center.
Fieffer said his department will not be heading up the third AFG grant
because they now have the equipment they need which makes them ineligible to
apply. But he said he would be willing to give what he has as a “blueprint”
to county FDs who may be eligible such as the Valparaiso FD, Kouts or Hebron
Those who apply for the grant will also have to make sure they have the
capability to use the radios, Fieffer said.
There are 18 municipal FDs in Porter County, Fieffer said. He said the
Westville FD is in LaPorte County but services parts of Jackson Twp. along
with Liberty Twp. FD.
Commissioner President John Evans congratulated Fieffer and his team saying
he knows that writing those grant applications is not a simple endeavor.
“It’s not easy to write those grants and to get them two years in a row is
just marvelous,” said Evans.