By CARL SMITH
Oktibbeha County Fire Services officials say funding from a recently approved grant will help increase volunteer staffs by approximately 80 firefighters over the next two years.
The Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the distribution of a $494,000 grant which will help recruit new firefighters and purchase new equipment for incoming staff.
Austin Check, a member of East Oktibbeha County Volunteer Fire Department, said the grant should help add 80 new members to the county’s volunteer roster.
“The worse the economy, the less time people have to spend with (county volunteer fire departments). Equipment is one part of our factor, and having people is the other part. We now find ourselves having a large increase in call volume in the past (years),” Check said to the board before it approved the grant’s dispersal. “This allows us to bring in something like 80 people over the next two years. That gets them in the door and sends them to get physicals.”
The grant also provides financial reimbursements to firefighters for the number of incidents they actively participate in. Check said first responders will receive $5 per incident, and the program could begin Aug. 1. Firefighters’ pay, he said, will be derived from documented scene reports and paid out quarterly.
“Nobody is going to make money off that, but it goes a long way to tell people you appreciate them for coming out in the middle of the night,” Check said.
With continued investments in fire services, Oktibbeha County increases its chances for improved fire ratings. Improved ratings would provide insurance breaks to homeowners.
“I think this is the start of something great,” Check said. “Making an investment in manpower will help us for the future.”
Following board action, supervisors thanked Check and other firefighters for their service to Oktibbeha County.
“Most people don’t realize how important it is to have good fire protection,” Board President Marvell Howard said.
In other board business, supervisors received a presentation on the Mississippi Horse Park, its yearly events and the impact they have on the area’s economy from facility director Bricklee Miller.
Miller asked supervisors for $70,000 in yearly support to help continue develop attractions and bring major events to the county. The board took Miller’s proposal under advisement.