Volunteer Fire Department funding passes at Hempstead County Quorum Court meeting

Attendance was more than usual at this month's Hempstead County Quorum Court meeting as members of the county's volunteer fire departments came to support a request for funding.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uK6TKwiftak

Last night’s Hempstead County Quorum Court meeting, which can be seen in its entirety above, saw the transfer of funds for the benefit of volunteer fire departments in the county, the acceptance of a grant and a request from a local group that provides food for seniors.

Attendance at the meeting, which started promptly at 5:30 p.m. on the top floor of the Hempstead County Courthouse, was three times as many as usual, with many members of the county’s volunteer fire departments showing up to support an ordinance to provide funds for equipment and suits.

The meeting began with an invocation from Justice of the Peace Jessie Henry, then proceeded to a pledge of allegiance to the flag and the approval of the minutes of the previous meeting on June 29.

There being no Old Business on the agenda, Judge Jerry Crane moved to New Business.  The first ordinance listed, an appropriation ordinance, was the acceptance of a $10,000 grant for the juvenile court, an amount already received by the county. Approval was unanimous by roll-call voice vote.

The second ordinance, a transfer and appropriation ordinance, under New Business provides for $480,000 from American Rescue Plan Act funds held by the county to be allotted to upgrades of equipment for the 16 volunteer fire departments of the county.  Assistant Fire Coordinator for Hempstead County Teresa Smith spoke in support of the ordinance’s passage.

Smith said the departments will need the funding to buy the new AWIN radios being adopted throughout the state and locally, including Pafford, Hempstead County and the Hope’s first responders so that they can communicate with those services. A digital repeater for radio signals will also be needed to make sure the volunteer departments can receive a good signal throughout the county. 

Smith also said that all the uniforms used by the departments now have expired. This has caused volunteer fire personnel not to be able to take part in state training.  

Justice of the Peace Steve Atchley urged Smith to seek out additional grant funding from Southwest Arkansas Development and to see if the departments could take advantage of lower state bid prices for protective suits.

JP Jay Lathrop spoke in support of the ordinance: “I've been associated with volunteer fire departments for over 25 years. And in the crowd here tonight, I see several faces that I know a lot of these have been here for that long or longer. Years ago, I had a board member of our department make a remark when we wanted to buy SCBAs [Self-Contained Breathing Apparatuses]. And he made the remark, ‘Oh, we don't need that. We're just a volunteer fire department.’ And that struck a nerve with me. Because we do the same jobs. These people do the same jobs as a fire department in New York City, or Los Angeles or Dallas. You don't have volunteer car accidents. You don't have volunteer house fires. So why should we lower our standards and say, ‘Oh, we're just volunteer, we don't need that.’”  He added that receipts from fundraising campaigns were decreasing.

Lathrop also asked if the departments could avoid having to buy the equipment themselves before the county reimbursed them.  County Clerk Karen Smith said the departments could bring the county copies of quotes and bills and the county would then pay those.

Jessie Henry made the motion to pass the $480,000 allotment. Jay Lathrop seconded. The ordinance passed unanimously by roll call voice vote.  Applause then filled the courtroom.

Next, Devin Price, of the Senior Center on 102 Main Street which is a part of David Boone Ministries, asked for help from county funds to keep serving seniors at the center and by delivering meals. JPs asked many questions to familiarize themselves with the service.  Price was told a decision would not be made immediately on her request.

Hempstead County Sheriff James Singleton announced the heatstroke death of a four-year-old K-9 Officer named Pakal that took place this week.

The Quorum Court session adjourned at 6:20 p.m.

  • Hempstead County Volunteer Fire Department Coordinator Teresa Smith speaks to the Quorum Court Thursday evening.

  • Devin Price of the David Boone Ministries' Senior Center speaks to the Quorum Court Thursday evening.