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Federal grant allows HFD to purchase new radio system

Date: 5/10/2010

May 10, 2010

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

HAMPDEN -- A grant awarded to the Hampden Fire Department from the Department of Homeland Security will help improve both firefighter safety and the safety of the public, according to Fire Chief Mike Gorski.

Congressman Richard Neal stopped by the all-volunteer fire department on April 30 to deliver the good news that Hampden had been selected to receive one of the highly competitive federally-funded grants. Dave Markham, deputy chief, said earning the grant money was "a terrific credit to the professional staff of Hampden" and that it was "pretty remarkable" for a town the size of Hampden to receive the amount of money it did.

The grant, totaling $146,800, will allow the department to purchase a brand new radio system, including repeaters that help relay messages over the hills of Hampden and communicate more effectively with neighboring East Longmeadow, Monson and Wilbraham, according to Gorski.

"It really allows us to do our job better and to help other communities," he added.

Gorski explained that the department's current radio system is cobbled together with equipment of varying ages, with the newest pieces being 15 to 20 years old. In addition to receiving new equipment, the radios will now operate on a higher bandwidth, allowing them to transmit farther.

"First responders have a special role in our lives," Neal stated, noting the importance of quality equipment for police and fire departments.

Chair of the Board of Selectmen Vinny Villamaino said he thought the grant was a great thing for Hampden to receive.

"This is a great start for our town," Villamaino commented, "and there's more [grant] money out there. We are limited on our revenue, so this really is a great start for us."

Markham explained there are two different components to the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program -- one for equipment acquisition, the other for vehicle acquisition.

The Hampden Fire Department has also put in a grant request to help pay for two trucks -- a pumper and a tanker that need to be replaced. One was built in 1972; the other, 1974.

Neal said the federal government is currently heading into its 11th round of Homeland Security grant applications.