Three local entities received USDA grant funding

Rural Development program assists smaller communities

OSCEOLA COUNTY — Three local entities in Osceola County are recipients of thousands of dollars in investment from the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development, a recent news release from Michigan state director Brandon Fewins announced. 

Among those receiving funding were the Evart Area Joint Fire Department, the city of Reed City and the Osceola County Sheriff's Department.

The Evart Area Fire Department received a $100,000 grant, which will be used to purchase upgraded equipment for firefighter protection, including bunker coats, bunker pants, helmets, gloves, Nomex hoods and firefighting boots, as well as modern extrication equipment, according to the news release. 

Evart Area Fire Department chief Shane Helmer told the Herald Review that the grant was very important in enabling them to purchase new equipment to replace current equipment that is out of date.

“This means new personal protection equipment and new extrication tools for the department,” Helmer said. “The personal protection equipment is very important because that is what they wear to fires and car accidents and things like that, and it is what keeps the guys safe and protected. The extrication tools are very important in being able to extricate people in motor vehicle accidents or buildings, or any type of disaster.

“We received a grant in 2012 for the personal protection equipment, which is now reaching its expiration date,” he added, “and the extrication tools were from 1999 and were no longer serviceable. Our gear was due for replacement in 2022, so this grant is vital.”

Helmer said the cost of the equipment is $150,000, and with the grant, they only had to come up with $50,000 from department funds.

“Without the grant funds, we would have to budget that money and it would take a couple of years to save up and make that happen,” he said. “We would have to take that out of our equipment fund or our truck fund to pay for those things.”

The new equipment is very important for the department to be able to do their jobs, from the extrication side and the personal protection side, he said.

'THIS IS HUGE FOR US'

Osceola County received a $35,000 grant for the purchase of a new law enforcement vehicle, which will replace an older one with high mileage.

Osceola County Sheriff Mark Cool said the grant is a huge bonus for the department.

"From an officer safety standpoint, the most important tool we use is our vehicle, to get from call to call," Cool said. "We are going to use the money toward a new Ford Explorer. The cost of the vehicle through MIdeal program is $47,500, so this grant will offset $35,000 of that leaving the cost to the county at $12,000.

"This is huge for us," he continued. "We put a lot of miles on a vehicle every year and if we can keep newer vehicles out there it is safer for my officers and we can get to the our citizens more quickly. So, it is very important to my officer’s safety and the citizen’s safety as well."

The city of Reed City, received a $3,000 grant, which will be used to purchase body cameras for the police department. The police department has only three working body cameras for five officers. The body cameras will help provide transparency and accountability for local law enforcement.

The total USDA Rural Development investment in Michigan is $240,000, according to the news release.

“These infrastructure investments will benefit northern Michigan communities in a variety of ways,” Fewins said. “This showcases how USDA is helping provide improved fire protection, strengthening public safety and preserving our historical heritage.”

Additional areas receiving funding include:

The City of Tawas City, Iosco County: Received a $27,900 grant for the purchase a new police vehicle, which will replace an older vehicle that is no longer mechanically reliable.

The City of East Jordan, Charlevoix County: Received a $30,000 grant, which will be used to purchase a patrol vehicle and related emergency lighting, prisoner containment system and on-board computer. The patrol vehicle will replace an older one that is having maintenance and reliability issues.

The Charlevoix Historical Society, Charlevoix County: Received a $7,000 grant to install air conditioning at the museum, which is housed in the historical Harsha House. The air conditioning is part of the renovations of the 2nd floor of the facility to create office, storage, and curator workspace.

The City of Gaylord, Otsego County: Received a $42,000 grant to purchase a patrol vehicle. The vehicle will replace an older, high mileage one with reliability and costly maintenance. The grant will cover the purchase of the vehicle and related safety equipment.

Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities, create jobs and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural, tribal and high-poverty areas. 

For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov