OSWEGO, NY – Firefighters in several area departments can breath easier thanks to US Rep. Dan Maffei (D-NY).
On Thursday afternoon, he was greeted at the eastside Oswego Fire Station by Fire Chief Jeff McCrobie and representatives of other departments.
Thanks to Maffei’s efforts, the Oswego City, Oswego Town, Granby Center, Minetto, and Cody fire departments will receive grants totaling $514,553 in Round 20 of the Fiscal Year 2012 Assistance to Firefighters Grant program, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The departments’ reps said the grants will be used to purchase 121 new Self Contained Breathing Apparatuses. The new SCBA air packs will replace obsolete units which are more than 20 years old.
Within the next year, Chief McCrobie said his department would have been looking at a price tag of more that $200,000 to replace the worn out units.
“This funding will help keep our local firefighters safe,” Maffei said. “I wish I could tell you that every fire grant I push in the entire district gets approved, but I can’t. We’ve been doing better than the average right now. I’d like to take credit for that. But I think it’s a testament to the fact that we have very professional fire departments, including volunteers.”
The congressman encourages all departments to “keep applying for these things.”
“What we want to do is get more and more departments to apply for these fire grants. Because sometimes you have a really valid need and they don’t fund it and occasionally you have one that is, ‘No way are they going to fund this’ and they do, Maffei said. “The more you apply for, the more you’re going to get.”
The AFG grants are designed to help firefighters and other first responders enhance their ability to protect the health and safety of the public and to obtain critically needed resources, personal protective equipment, firefighting and emergency vehicles, and training to improve the capability to respond to fires and emergencies of all types, he explained.
“This is great for all five departments. We’ve all been watching the end of life on our current air packs. We appreciate Rep. Maffei’s continued support for the Oswego Town Volunteer Fire Department,” said Greg Herrmann, Fire Chief, Oswego Town Volunteer Fire Department. “This is huge. This grant will help safeguard the men and women who volunteer to protect our community.”
“A lot of our cylinders are aging out,” Bob Loomis of the Palermo Fire Department added. “We applied for the same grant last year, didn’t get it. We tweaked it a little bit this year after going to a couple more workshops.”
“The five of us were the regional grant. Palermo is going to jump in with us. New Haven just got their award and they will jump in with us also just when we go to purcahse, we’ll have a higher number buying so we’ll get a better price,” Herrmann pointed out.
“We are grateful for Rep. Maffei’s efforts to secure critical investments that help protect our firefighters and enable them to save lives, especially at a time when it is harder than ever obtain these important funds,” McCrobie said. “This will save the city a lot of money.”
Joe Smegelsky, Minetto’s fire chief, agreed.
“We are thankful for Rep. Maffei’s support and commitment to protecting local first responders. These important resources will help keep our brave men and women safe from harm.”
My brother is a volunteer in Dewitt. But he’d like to be a professional. He has been taking all the classes. So, if you have any openings,” the congressman quipped.
Maffei said he was very appreciative of the work all the firefighters do, paid and volunteer departments.”
“Whatever you need, just let us know. And even if I can’t do it, I will bug the person who can,” he told the firefighters.
There are a number of grants available to first responders, mostly from Homeland Security, but some times from other departments, Maffei said.
“What we try to do is match the grants with the department and the departmental needs,” he explained. “Some times the grants will cover mundane things, other times more sophisticated equipment. This one, we pushed it, but we also just sort of lucked out. We don’t get everything we push. I have to give all the credit in the world to the departments; how organized they are, because the application really does matter.”
He noted that he just can’t say, “I’m the congressman, they get the money.”
“I need to work with really good partners. And, the Oswego Fire Department is tremendously professional and the rest of them. Like I told them, it’s nice to be able to show up and take credit for something that mostly they did,” he said.
Oswego used to be the end of a congressional district, Maffei noted.
“But now we’ve got the office here. It really is very essential to my thinking about the whole district and the future economy of the district. So, in that sense, we wanted to focus on what we could. There’s not a lot of money in the budget. We’d love to bring in infrastructure and we’re working on dredging and all that other stuff. But this is something we can do right now that would have a positive budgetary impact on Oswego,” he said.
His Oswego office is full-service and is staffed full-time, and maintains regular week day hours. It is located in City Hall, 13 W. Oneida St., on the second floor. The phone number is: (315) 342-2192.
Following his stop at the OFD, Maffei headed to Springside at Seneca Hill,for a “Discuss it with Dan” mobile office hours session.
He holds the events throughout the 24th Congressional District to meet face to face with constituents for a one-on-one talk where people have the opportunity to discuss issues important to them.
Constituents are invited to attend and share their thoughts, ideas, questions, and concerns.
“People in this district deserve the opportunity to look their representative in the eye and tell him how they feel. They also deserve help and assistance from our office if they need it. It is not enough to expect constituents to come to us. We must go to them,” Maffei told Oswego County Today. “It’s not a town hall meeting because we don’t bring everybody in at once. But, we’ve found that in some ways they are more valuable because they are basically office hours. We have to keep the appointments fairly short in order to accommodate everybody. But, they tell me what the issue is and we tell them what information we need from them in order to help them.”
He said he likes this sort of conversation more than just receiving a slew of emails.
“When you talk to someone in person you can better get a sense of what he or she is really feeling, what they mean,” he said. “My position on issues is certainly affected by people who come in and tell me their stories.
More “Discuss it with Dan” events will be announced. Constituents can visit http://maffei.house.gov/about/events for regular updates on upcoming “Discuss it with Dan” events.