Annual disaster drill to be Aug. 29

Extra state funding for fire protection will be shared by the fire departments in St. Francis County after a unanimous vote Wednesday by the mayors in the county.

The mayors also learned of a disaster drill planned for later this month.

Shane Dallas, Emergency Management Coordinator, discussed the extra money, made possible by Act 884, with the mayors. According to Dallas, the Act 884 funding is similar to the Act 833 funding which can be used for the purchase of firefighting equipment.

“Act 884 was passed in the last legislative session,” said Dallas. “It is an act that made $4 million in appropriations for fire departments statewide. Act 884 is to be distributed by population like the Act 833 funding is. Two years ago, you voted to distribute similar funds equally among all the fire departments. We figure it would come to about $4,000 per department if you vote to distribute it equally.”

County Judge Gary Hughes, who is also the mayor of Caldwell, told the group they had the authority to vote on the distribution of the funds. The measure unanimously passed, allowing the funds to be distributed evenly among each of the cities’ fire departments and the Newcastle Fire Department.

While on the topic of legislative actions, Dallas told the group that the limit on what fire departments can charge has increased.

“Act 1482 revises the cap that fire departments can charge from $500 to $800,” Dallas said. “Your city councils might want to look at ordinances to increase what you charge to help recoup the money you spend.”

Dallas also spoke about the county’s annual disaster drill, which is scheduled to take place on Saturday, Aug. 29.

“Operation Fallen Eagle is our disaster drill this year,” said Dallas. “I don’t want to give away too many details, but it will be held on Aug. 29. Not only do we do this to test our disaster plan, but Homeland Security requires us to test our equipment.”

According to Dallas, drill organizers want to get as many county agencies involved as possible and as many fire department personnel as they can.

On other matters, Dallas shared the county’s Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan.

“FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) has approved the plan pending the adoption of the plan by the local jurisdictions,” Dallas said. “The reason we have to do this is because if we don’t we won’t be able to get mitigation funds.”

Dallas asked the mayors to review the plan, and he made arrangements to attend council meetings in each city to answer questions about the plan.

Hughes also reminded the group that the next Southern Bancorp meeting will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 25, at 5:30 p.m. at the St. Francis County Courthouse.

Hughes also added that the sign-up sheet for the fall installment of the Keep St. Francis County Beautiful Campaign is available.