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Wichita County VFDs Could Get More Funding

Wichita County Commissioners continue to look at giving a little extra money to the nine volunteer fire departments, including two that currently don't receive any county funds.
    County commissioners say unless there's a strong objection between now and when they approve the county budget, they will give area volunteer fire departments some additional funding.
    Matthew McAlister, assistant chief for the Punkin Center Volunteer Fire Department, says, "Years like last year, it really hurts your budget. It really does."
    The wildfires in 2011 overwhelmed many fire departments, including Punkin Center's, but that department felt a little more heat than some.
    Fires in Electra took out one of Punkin Center's fire engines, but replacing it burned a hole in the department's funds.
    That prompted Punkin Center VFD officials to start looking at the department's financial future, so they recently asked Wichita County Commissioners for funding.
    "Financially we're stable right now.  We're in good shape.  We're not going broke or anything like that, but we're trying to get our ducks in a row before that comes about," McAlister says.
    Bill Presson, Wichita County commissioner for precinct four, says, "We realize the stress that the volunteer fire departments have been under.  It's very, very critical that they be funded correctly."
    The county fully funds Iowa Park, Electra, and Burkburnett VFDs.
    Each receives $34-thousand a year, which includes funding for dispatch.
    Wichita East, Wichita West, Cameron Gardens, and Kamay VFDs get $22-thousand each year.   
    If approved, those departments plus Punkin Center and Frieberg Cooper VFDs would get a stipend from the county.
    "The proposal on the table now is $5,000 per each of the nine county volunteer fire departments, for a total of $45,000," Presson says.
    Neither Punkin Center nor Frieberg Cooper get any county money at this time because their respective communities founded those departments.
    Commissioners must approve the county budget, including any funding given to county VFDs, by August 31.
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