By Amanda Ensinger
With public funding being tighter than ever and townships being asked to do more with less services, a local fire department is celebrating receiving a much-needed grant.
At a recent board meeting, Prairie Township officials announced that the fire department received a FEMA grant and those grant funds will go toward the fire hose and appliance project, which was awarded to Finley Fire Equipment.
“Finley was the lowest of the four total bids and meets all the bid requirements,” said Rob Peters, Prairie Township administrator. “The total cost of the project will be no more than $55,396.”
Peters said that the grant amount cannot exceed $52,758 and that the township is obligated to pay 5 percent of that amount or $2,637.
“The project will replace nearly all of our existing fire hose and the appliances that are used to get water into and out of the hoses and trucks,” Peters said. “This would be a significant cost to the fire department, so receiving this grant is a tremendous help to the department and township.”
The board also approved contracting with Berkshire Boys for concrete repairs at Station 241. The cost for the repairs was $43,000.
In other township news, finances at the community center continue to be examined and Community Center Director Michael Pollack gave an update on how COVID-19 has financially impacted the center.
“When we first reopened, we were averaging around 80 visits a day and now we are up to 120 to 170 visits a day, which is a great increase,” Pollack said. “We used to have about 7,000 members, so these visits are still significantly less than they used to be.”
Pollack said the center still has about 6,500 members and most of the people they have lost are due to them not renewing their membership. However, he anticipates those people will come back once things go back to normal.
He also attributed people who have not came back to the pool being closed, less activities being offered and special rooms, like the senior area, being closed.
The current budget for the community center is $1.8 million a year, but the department has access to an additional $500,000 from the general fund to use as needed. This year, the community center has had to use an additional $350,000 from that fund.
“Those additional funds are there if we need them, but we try not to use them unless we have to,” Pollack said. “We want to be able to sustain ourselves long term, but with COVID-19 it makes it difficult.”
The community center has had to cut essential events and classes that generate significant revenue for the community center. Some of the activities that were revenue generating that are currently on hold due to COVID-19 include swim classes, entertainment classes like painting and cooking, as well as day passes.
The township plans to take guidance from Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and open more activities at the center as the state says it is safe to do so.