To the Editor:
Now that the dust has settled since State Senator Patty Ritchie and her fellow Senators that represent the County came forward with their funding of $100,000 for our much needed new “Live burn simulator” structure, I would like to share with you some of the background behind the award.
This award affects every single person living and working within the County, not just the 2,000 plus fire persons who benefit from the training this allows us to do.
On a day that no emergency response person will every forget – Sept. 11, but in 2012, three people; County Legislator Jon Putney Bob Kerr and I as Co-Chairs of the fund raising effort met with Senator Ritchie and a few of her staff in her Ogdensburg office in the late afternoon. We were petitioning Senator Ritchie for support of several grants Bob and I were working for the project through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the New York Power Authority (NYPA).
After introductions, Senator Ritchie said that she had heard of our project and our quest for Federal and private funding and was pleased to lend her support through the letter that she then preceded to hand the three of us. This letter addressed the USDA Grant Application and we requested a similar one for the NYPA grant.
The Senator threw a couple of questions at us that dealt with other funding sources that most are familiar with as a Fire Department; the NYS Revolving Loan Fund, Home Land Security FEMA Grants and the SAFER GRANTS which deal with staffing and training.
Many in the Emergency Response community have asked Bob and me that question over a 100 times since we began this project. Even US Senator Schumer’s office has called trying to work their wonders for us. The constant answer is “No, you are not a fire depatment. You do not make house calls and do not have state and federal identification numbers as the other 41 departments do.”
At this time, Senator Ritchie informed us that she was truly sorry but there were absolutely no “Member Items” or open non-earmarked state funding available for anything with the condition of the state budget. We took a few minutes to give the history and background of the Training Center, where we came from, what we had achieved and why we had to acquire this new simulator. The Senator listened and began to ask more questions for clarification. After about 40 minutes the three of us thanked her for her time and left the meeting feeling that we had not totally struck out in gaining her support for the two grant proposals.
A few weeks passed and the Senator’s office called me on a Tuesday seeking some hard data saying there may be something in the works. We forwarded the information to her office and the rest is histroy. Senator Ritchie has defiantly earned the support of every citizen in St. Law. Co. Her goals to serve and protect the people that elect her have more then been fulfilled in this term. I for one strongly recommend you support her in her bid for re-election.
Dale W. Gardner, St. Lawrence Co. Fire Training Facility, Inc.