LINCOLN, Maine — Firefighters are seeking $157,150 in federal grants to pay for front-line firefighting equipment that is worn but not in need of immediate replacement, Fire Chief Phil Dawson said.
“It’s in need of updating,” Dawson said of the Fire Department’s equipment. “Eventually this is going to be stuff that we have to replace.”
Given the town’s recent drop in property taxes, the grant request is a reminder of a constant stress town leaders face: the need to gradually replace old but vital equipment — in this case, materials close to 20 years old — or risk a year when town taxes spike because of a sudden, urgent need to replace items needed to keep workers safe and well-equipped.
“These grants are very competitive,” Town Manager Lisa Goodwin said. “This is the second time he [Dawson] has applied for these grants. If we can get funding this time, we can bring everything up to date quickly.”
Town leaders budget $15,000 annually for Fire Department equipment replacement items. The requested items this year include individual costs of:
• $31,158 for 18 sets of new firefighter gloves, coats, pants, boots, hoods and helmets.
• $89,100 for 18 sets of air tanks and masks to replace aging respiratory gear.
• $14,680 for training materials, including DVDs, PowerPoint presentations and computer simulations used to keep firefighters current on firefighting methods.
• $21,474 for an air compressor that firefighters use to fill air tanks and spare bottles.
The equipment on hand functions well enough so the replacements aren’t immediately required unless damage occurs, Goodwin said.
By seeking grants for such items well before their breakdown, Dawson is seeking to help keep town taxes low by alleviating the need for direct taxpayer payments for the items, Goodwin said.
The town’s mill rate dropped from 20.12 mills to 19.86 mills under a new rate town officials set last week. Tax bills went out this week. Under the 19.86 mill rate, $1,986 in taxes is owed annually on every $100,000 of property and $993 on every $50,000.
Town officials attributed the drop to an increase in the town’s valuation caused by the First Wind industrial site and tight spending controls.