By Tommy Reynolds
A hallmark of leadership is the ability to follow through on promises to constituents. I am proud to report that the 2014 Legis-lature followed through on its promise to provide funding for our rural fire departments for the purpose of acquiring new fire trucks.
As those of us who live in rural areas know, there are few things more stressful than the threat of fire without hope of a quick response. Our local fire departments are manned primarily by trained volunteers whose desire is to take care of their friends and neighbors in our communities. Without proper equipment, their jobs become more dangerous and their ability to put out devastating fires is lessened. We are most fortunate that these men and women are willing to risk their own safety to help us. They deserve safe working conditions.
Providing opportunity for local departments to upgrade their vehicles and equipment also pays off for our local communities by potentially improving the fire rating and thereby lowering fire insurance premiums.
It is clearly a win-win situation. The Rural Fire Truck Acquisition Program was created by the Legislature years ago as an effort to provide matching funds for local departments that needed to purchase new fire trucks and equipment. I was an early sponsor of the program, and have been a very strong supporter through the years.
Our recent session included over $3 million in funding for the programs in House Bill 1493, the Department of Insurance appropriation bill. After a number of amendments and recommittals to conference committee, the measure finally passed the House 120 – 2, and has been signed into law by the Governor.
The funding means that departments in Yalobusha, Tallahatchie, Lafayette, and Grenada who submitted proposals last year will have the funding made available beginning July 1. I commend these fire departments for their solid proposals to aid the fire fighting capabilities of their communities. Although the process was delayed on technicalities from last year, I am pleased that we will soon see some new fire trucks coming to the rescue of those who need help in our neighborhoods.
In related actions, we also approved Senate Bill 2573, which allows fire personnel to purchase their helmets and badges upon retirement, or allows the family to purchase these items upon the death of the individual. Additionally, we approved a measure to increase the death benefit from $65,000 to $100,000 to the survivors of firefighters and other first responders who are killed in the line of duty.
These measures provide gestures of appreciation by the State toward those who place themselves in danger just to do their jobs. It is the least we can do.
Please feel free to contact me at 1720 N. Main Street, Water Valley, MS 38965, by email at thomasureynolds @bellsouth.net or by phone at (662) 473-2571. I look forward to hearing from you on any issue that you may have.