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Two dozen fire crews to share $1.5M

Digital communications coming

CHAMPION — Two dozen Trumbull County fire departments will share a $1.5 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Assistance to Firefighters Act.

The grant was awarded to the Trumbull County Fire Chiefs Association and will be used to transition the departments to the digital communication system Multi-Agency Radio Communication System, known as MARCS.

MARCS enables safety service departments to communicate clearly, over long distance and in all types of weather. Most of Ohio already has made the switch to the digital system. Analog 911 communications often have “static” or difficulty connecting in certain conditions and over distances, Trumbull County 911 Director Ernie Cook said previously.

The new system will allow communication among departments statewide. Switching to digital also allows departments to encrypt their communications so the public will no longer be able to listen in on a typical police scanner, which is something desired for officer safety, Cook said.

The Champion Fire Department was the lead agency and host department for the grant, according to Champion fire Chief John Hickey, who was president of the fire chiefs association at the time. The grant was written for the association by Resource Management Consultants of Perrysburg in October, Hickey said.

He said the total grant is $1,505,600, with FEMA covering $1,368,727 and the fire departments contributing $136,872. Hickey said each department will contribute 10 percent of whatever amount it requested.

The grant request was for approximately $1.8 million, so the amount received is about $300,000 less than sought. Hickey said $300,000 equates to 50 portable units and 50 mobile units, and having a request reduced is “pretty typical for these types of grants.”

Mobile units are mounted permanently on the fire trucks, while the portable units can be carried by the firefighters. Hickey said the departments were able to request a portable radio for every seated position on a fire truck, so smaller departments requested less, and larger departments, such as Warren, requested more.

According to a spreadsheet provided by Hickey, portable units cost $3,050 each, and mobile units cost $2,360 each, with base units that remain at the station costing $3,500 each.

Hickey also said that with the radio system the county is on now, the county and the individual departments have to pay for maintenance of the towers and related equipment. On MARCS, the departments have to pay a $10 fee per month per radio, and there are grants available from FEMA to help pay those fees, he said.

Hickey said 24 of the 30 Trumbull County fire departments were part of the grant, with Girard, Greene, Eagle Joint Fire District in Hubbard, Mesopotamia, Newton Falls and Orangeville opting not to participate.

Mesopotamia fire Chief Jamie Loza said his department missed the deadline to apply for the county-wide grant, but he is hoping to still get some funds if all of the grant money is not used.

The following departments were part of the FEMA grant request. Each department has to pay a 10 percent match of whatever it receives, but not all of the requested amount was approved, so cost may vary, according to Hickey:

• Warren — requested $93,185 for 24 portables, six mobiles and one base station.

• Warren Township — requested $114,945 for 24 portables, 12 mobiles and three base stations.

• Bazetta — requested $61,935 for 14 portables, six mobiles and one base station.

• Cortland — requested $61,935 for 14 portables, six mobiles and one base station.

• Bloomfield — requested $35,880 for eight portables, three mobiles and one base station.

• Braceville — requested $77,560 for 19 portables, six mobiles and one base station.

• Bristol — requested $58,810 for 13 portables, six mobiles and one base station.

• Brookfield — requested $126,305 for 28 portables, 13 mobiles and two base stations.

• Burghill / Vernon — requested $59,500 for 14 portables, five mobiles and one base station.

• Champion — requested $70,620 for 16 portables, seven mobiles and one base station.

• Farmington — requested $64,370 for 14 portables, seven mobiles and one base station.

• Fowler — requested $47,640 for 11 portables, four mobiles and one base station.

• Gustavus — requested $65,750 for eight portables, four mobiles and one base station.

• Howland — requested $144,815 for 32 portables, 14 mobiles and three base stations.

• Johnston — requested $65,060 for 15 portables, six mobiles and one base station.

• Kinsman — requested $59,500 for 14 portables, five mobiles and one base station.

• Liberty — requested $76,630 for 16 portables, eight mobiles and two base stations.

• Lordstown — requested $106,740 for 26 portables, nine mobiles and one base station.

• McDonald — requested $50,815 for 12 portables, four mobiles and one base station.

• Mecca — requested $46,310 for nine portables, six mobiles and one base station.

• Southington — requested $50,125 for 11 portables, five mobiles and one base station.

• Vienna — requested $44,565 for 10 portables, four mobiles and one base station.

• Weathersfield — requested $139,945 for 32 portables, 12 mobiles and three base stations.

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