BY ANDREA VANVALKENBURG
---- — UPPER JAY — The Upper Jay Fire Department is one of 20 statewide to receive funding from the latest round of grants from the State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.
The competitive grant program awards, totaling $390,000, will dole out $8,651 to the Upper Jay Department to help bolster the organization’s ongoing recruitment and retention efforts.
The department is the only one in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties to receive funding.
Fire Chief Jeff Straight said the money must be used in specific ways, primarily to provide comprehensive training-requirement information to existing volunteers and for small incentive equipment, such as gloves and helmet lights, for volunteers who surpass department milestones.
Straight said the incentive items are not normally purchased by the department and will be used “as encouragement to keep (volunteers) interested in the department.”
The award came as welcome news as the department has struggled over the loss of the Upper Jay station and much of its equipment in Tropical Storm Irene.
“I think that kind of helped us get the money,” Straight told the Press-Republican Tuesday afternoon, shortly before he gave volunteers the good news about the grant.
While Upper Jay crews still work from their badly damaged station, construction of a new facility is expected to begin this summer, thanks to insurance and federal and state aid.
The public-safety grant supports efforts by first-response agencies to overcome the challenges of maintaining staffing and is funded by state residents who make voluntary contributions on their income-tax forms.
“The recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters and emergency-services personnel is critical to protecting public safety in the state of New York,” Homeland Security Commissioner Jerome Hauer said in a news release.
“These volunteers, in many instances, are the first to respond to any emergency in communities throughout our state, providing essential services to their fellow New Yorkers.
“And, most importantly, this is a program where state residents generously volunteer to fund these organizations who daily make a difference in their communities.”