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Commissioners approve $70,000 total for Ghent Fire Department

MARSHALL — Taking COVID-19 precautions is crucial to help keep emergency responders healthy. But a lack of distancing space at the fire hall is a serious obstacle for members of the Ghent Fire Department, City Administrator Dawn Vlaminck said.

Currently, Vlaminck said, only about half the fire department members can respond to a call, because there’s not enough room for firefighters to socially distance as they gear up.

“It’s just tough, when you’re in a small town,” Vlaminck said Tuesday. Ghent was asking Lyon County commissioners for help with funding to fix that problem, as well as to build a decontamination area for firefighters returning from scenes with COVID-positive people.

Commissioners approved a total of $70,000 for the fire department — part as a grant, and part as a zero-interest loan to be paid back over five years.

Vlaminck said Ghent is making several updates to its fire hall and city offices, to help meet fire department needs. The city is building a decontamination area, including equipment like an extractor for washing and decontaminating firefighter turnout gear. They are also setting up a new meeting room for the fire department, which will free up more space at the hall for members to socially distance when responding to a call.

The city of Ghent has used $22,349 in CARES funding for the fire hall, and it has also received $11,305 of township money to be used toward the project. However, the city still needed $70,000 to complete the project, Vlaminck said. She said the city applied for FEMA funding for the extractor and other equipment, but at this point she wasn’t sure if they would get it.

County commissioners supported the project, but had some discussion with county staff about whether some of Lyon County’s remaining CARES funding could be used for it. County Administrator Loren Stomberg said the county could use its reserves to fund Ghent’s request.

Commissioner Steve Ritter asked if the city would be receptive to paying back some funding over time. Vlaminck thought that would be possible with city approval.

Commissioners approved a motion to grant $50,000 to the city of Ghent for the fire department project, and to loan an additional $20,000, to be paid back to the county at zero interest over the next five years.

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