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USDA helps volunteer fire department

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By John Barnhart

Saunders Volunteer Fire Department members would have had to cook up a lot of chickens to pay the $226,000 that their new tank truck cost. Fortunately, county money and a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has reduced the amount that they have to raise.

The new truck, with a 3,000 gallon capacity replaces a 31-year-old truck with a capacity of a little more than two-thirds of that. What’s more, the old truck was worn out and could no longer be safely kept on the road.

Bedford County came up with $140,000 of the money and the USDA provided $50,000.

The money came from the USDA’s rural development program. Ellen Davis, the state director for the program in Virginia, said that part of this involves helping rural first responders. Rural communities generally don’t have the necessary tax base. The rural development program’s goal is to make sure that people in those areas have the same level of public safety as those who live in urban and suburban areas. She said a total of $67 million in grants were made in Virginia last year.

“We are just so glad that rural development and the county could help us out,” commented P. W. Morgan, the fire department’s president.

Morgan had contacted Arthur Powers, the rural development area specialist based in Rocky Mount. It took less than 90 days from that contact for the grant to come through. Powers noted that things went quickly because the fire department moved quickly to provide the information he needed.

“I never had anyone respond so fast,” Powers commented.

The fact that rural development had the money when the request came was also a factor. Davis noted that Congressman Virgil Goode, who was there for the check presentation, is a huge supporter of the rural development program.