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Preston Commission gives money to VFDs

KINGWOOD — The Preston County Commission set aside $240,000 in CARES money to help the county’s 12 volunteer fire departments at its Nov. 30 meeting.

The motion, made by Commissioner Samantha Stone, allows for each department to claim up to $20,000 in reimbursements for training, equipment, worker’s compensation or any combination thereof by June 1, 2022.

“I was quite happy when I opened that email the other day, I was like, ‘Woo hoo, oh, this is awesome,’” Aurora VFD Chief Adam Bachtel told The Dominion Post. “I was shocked I didn’t know that one was coming.”

The donation came at a great time for AVFD, since the department just purchased a larger building as it had outgrown its fire hall ,which was built in 1964 – nearly wiping out its coffers. The $20,000 will provide a cushion and help soften the blow of paying utilities on two buildings until the department is fully moved into its new station, Bachtel said.

The commission has discussed a donation between $15,000-$20,000 per department from it’s roughly $922,000 in CARES money – reimbursement from the state for COVID expenses – multiple times. Commission President Don Smith said the commission didn’t want to move too fast and wanted to be deliberate, because the money is a one-time thing.

However, Smith told The Dominion Post commissioners wanted to help as best they could. Stone said she was excited about that meeting.

Commissioner Dave Price said, in his mind, the CARES money should most be used for the critical services of fire, EMS and law enforcement.

“That’s a big job that I think we have as commissioners have, is to make sure that these critical services are helped anyway we can do it,” Price said. “Sometimes, I wish we could do more.”

Smith said he felt $20,000 was an appropriate number because the firefighters have missed two years of fundraising because of COVID-19 – and they do a lot of fundraising.

“It’s a huge, huge, huge relief to us,” Bachtel said. “Since they’ve come through with this money, it makes it a little easier on us. Awesome. I mean, it does take a lot of relief off fundraising and dinners. And it takes a lot of time. I mean, our call volume isn’t a lot. But we still have to put the same amount of time in as somebody who’s running, you know, 300 calls a year.”

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