The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

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By Forrest Hershberger
Publisher, Sun-Telegraph 

Ambiguous Framework Flatlines Fire Department Grant Request


February 16, 2022 | View PDF

In April 2021, Cheyenne County stood in line with numerous other municipalities expecting yet another round of federal recovery funds.

The county's share of Fund 2580 COVID American Rescue Plan funds was expected to be about $1.7 million. The challenge from the beginning is no one knew what the county can or should do with the funds.

The lack of direction came back before the Cheyenne County Commissioners Feb. 7 when the board was approached with a funding request they didn't know if they could approve. The American Rescue Plan fund has lain dormant for nearly 10 months when Matt Gillespie, fire chief of the Dalton Volunteer Fire Department, approached the board for funding to purchase new radios.

Gillespie said the issue is when Dalton's firefighters are responding with another department, communication is even more important.

Gillespie introduced himself as involved in firefighting since 1988 as a member of the U.S. Navy until 1993, a volunteer EMT at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins from 1995 to 1997, and as EMT and Rescue Captain at Dalton VFD.

He referenced the Hackberry Fire as an example of necessary communication when more than 45 departments from four states responded. He said it is necessary to have radios with multiple channels to prevent confusion among the responders.

The Dalton VFD has two handheld radios sought after and would like to increase the number to 10. Gillespie said in his presentation the radios are not linked to a dispatch center and thus will not affect normal operations.

He presented research by the Platte Institute that offered direction for use of the American Rescue Plan funds.

“We're asking for a little bit of help in the amount of $6,197,” he said to the commissioners.

Commissioner Randy Miller asked who wrote the report on how to use funds, then reminded Gillespie the commissioners have to answer to the state and federal government on the fund.

“You guys need those radios,” said commissioner Darrell Johnson. “The problem is they won't tell us what we can spend it on.”

Gillespie was encouraged to keep seeking funding for the department's radios.


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