Cortland Fire Department to Apply for Grants for Vehicle, Equipment Upgrades

City of Cortland Fire Department. (Photo Source: Kevin L. Smith/Cortland Voice).

The Cortland Fire Department (CFD) is applying for a series of grants to assist them with vehicle, equipment and technology improvements.

CFD assistant fire chief Mike TenKate said the department will be applying as host for three grants, and participating in a fourth grant application that will be hosted by the Virgil Fire Department. The city of Cortland Common Council approved the authorization of the process of each of the grant applications by a 6-0 vote at Tuesday’s meeting.

Each of these grants will be applied for through Region Two of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Assistance to Firefighters Grants Program. The deadline to apply for these grants is Dec. 17, TenKate said.

The CFD’s first grant application will show them collaborating with the Marathon Joint Fire District and potentially the Willet Fire District. It consists of applying for a grant worth $511,000 for the purchase of a new self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA).

Mayor Brian Tobin will execute a memorandum of understanding with Marathon and Willet on the collaboration of the grant process.

TenKate said the current SCBA is “about 13 years old.”

“When it gets to 15, we can’t use it all,” he added.

The second grant consists of $750,000 to purchase a replacement fire apparatus that would “serve the function as a fire engine and aerial,” according to Tuesday’s agenda. It would replace two 20-plus year-old pieces.

TenKate said this grant would replace a 1998 engine, and a 1993 truck with a “single apparatus.”

The last grant that CFD is applying for is worth $450,000, which will help pay for equipment and training sessions for the local emergency medical services.

The one grant where Virgil will be the host is worth $200,000, which TenKate said would help purchase new portable radios. The grant application process will include another MOU from Tobin, this time with Virgil.

“Departments can apply for up to three grants every year, so that’s why Virgil is the host for this one,” TenKate said. Willet, Marathon, Cortlandville, Homer and Preble will also be participants, he added.

TenKate noted the current portable radios have become a “problem for the last year or two,” adding that they are each 12 years old. CFD applied for a similar grant “12-13 years ago” to replace the portable radios then, he added.

“We’re wearing it on our turnout gear and they’re getting beat up,” TenKate said. “Motorola stopped supporting (our current ones) a year ago so we’re at the point of cannibalizing one to make the other work.”

Tobin mentioned before the process of this application was approved that “a few years ago” Cortland County allocated $1.5 million from its sales tax distribution to assist in paying for “replacements like this” for municipalities in the county.

TenKate noted he will convene with the county on the matter, but said he hasn’t heard about distributions from the county. He added the county has supplied radios and repairs for radios “in the past.”

“The county isn’t eligible to apply for a grant like this unfortunately,” TenKate said.

Each grant comes with 5-10% match from either a municipality or the county. Councilperson Tom Michales (R-8th Ward) wondered who will pay for the matches on the grant if CFD is awarded with them.

A municipality or the county could assist in paying $100,000 or less for their side of the grant, which remains to be seen, but TenKate added it’s up to $2 million in equipment “we desperately need.”

“Every year we apply for a few of these grants, and most years we only get one of them anyways,” he said.

Here is video of of the City of Cortland Common Council approving the authorization of the process of each of the Cortland Fire Department’s grant applications (start video at 1:36:30 & end video at 1:50:04):