People driving through the town of Trenton, North Carolina, are seeing a new building right off the downtown area.
With the assistance of $1 million in grants from USDA Rural Development the town’s new fire station was officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in October 2020.
The Trenton Fire department had to evacuate their previous firehouse due to flooding during Hurricane Florence.
We had to worry about saving ourselves before we could worry about saving the town. It was not a situation we wanted to have to repeat, according to Trenton Fire Department Assistant Chief Kyle Koonce.
Koonce joined the Trenton Fire Department in 2000 and has served on their team consistently since.
The 32 all-volunteer fire company wanted to move their facility to higher ground so this would not be an issue when the next natural disaster passed through the area.
A local business offered its land as a refuge for the fire department as they cleaned up their fire house and looked for a spot to build a new location.
That location presented itself across the street from location they were evacuated to.
Working with the town and different grant relief organizations a deal was struck to buy the land and begin construction.
The grant relief would only cover the construction of the new building.
“We knew we were going to be about a million dollars short for the equipment we needed,” said Koonce. “Our Fire Marshall Timmy Pike sent out an email saying USDA had some grant money available. So I reached out to Kim Daniels.”
Daniels is the USDA RD Area Specialist who covers the Down East and Crystal Coast parts of North Carolina. She reviews financial data, organizational documents, develops loans and grants based on financial needs of the community applying for assistance.
“Based on the median household income of the service area and financial need, Trenton was eligible for 75 percent grant,” said Daniels. “The timing with their new station and our disaster funding has given them a golden opportunity to take advantage of the disaster funding and get state of the art equipment that has been needed for many years.”
According to Government Information Website, the median household income of the applying town must be less than 70 percent of the state non-metropolitan median household income.
The grant Daniels and Koonce structured together, in December 2018, assisted in outfitting the new station to run efficiently. These items included a generator, washer, dryer, ice machine, and overhead fan.
As the process was moving along Daniels made the Trenton team aware of other grant opportunities they could apply for additional needed equipment.
“It’s been a partnership with USDA,” said Koonce. “She [Daniels] has been an angel to us.”
Before the washer and dryer purchase the firefighters had to carry all of their wearable gear to other departments and use their equipment to maintain their protective clothing. This is saving the Trenton team numerous man hours and wear and tear on their vehicles.
The gigantic overhead fan is saving the team hundreds of dollars in air conditioning costs through the summer months.
“The cost of just the install of air conditioning was going to run $100 thousand,” said Koonce. “The fan was $11 thousand. It moves the air and we are able to work and train in the firehouse during the summer months.”
The additional grant money is assisting the Trenton Fire Department purchase two new fire trucks.
USDA RD and Trenton continue to partner on future projects.