March 26, 2008 Edition

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Portia VFD adds truck to fleet

Portia VFD Chief Greg Duckworth shows the deck gun on the town's new fire truck on Thursday. The feature will assist the department in fighting higher fires such as those in a two-story structure or up in trees. The truck, which was made possible through funding from USDA Rural Development and Arkansas Rural Services, is the fourth in the department's fleet.
TD Photo ~ Gretchen Hunt
Gretchen Hunt

The Portia Volunteer Fire Department is able to serve the community better thanks to the addition of a third pumper truck to the fleet, which will serve as the new main engine.

In addition to the three pumpers, the department also has a brush truck.

The 1991 GMC commercial pumper has a 750-gallon tank and can pump 1,000 gallons per minute. The truck also has a deck gun, which shoots the water up higher, according to Portia VFD Chief Greg Duckworth, which will assist with fires in trees and two-story buildings.

"It will make it a lot easier," Duckworth said of the truck's affect on the departments ability to fight fires.

Jim King, assistant chief, also said that the truck, which is an automatic diesel, will be easier to operate for the volunteers.

"That's a super nice truck," Portia Mayor Dale Freeman said on Thursday when local officials and representatives from USDA Rural Development met to see the new truck.

The truck was funded through a $40,000 USDA Rural Development grant and a $15,000 Arkansas Rural Services grant. The city matched with $25,000, only $15,000 of which had to be financed.

Freeman said $10,000 was appropriated from the town's general fund, while the remaining $15,000 was financed through Regions Bank.

Jeffrey Spencer, area direcotor, and Raymon E. Covey, area specialist, from the Rural Development office in Jonesboro were on hand on Thursday.

Spencer said the agency provides funding for small towns in Northeast Arkansas, with the big push right now being health and safety. Funding for safety in area communities has included trucks, equipment and buildings for fire departments, as well as cars for police departments.

"We've been real involved in Portia," Spencer said. "We helped with the new city hall and housing authority complex and the new water tower. Dale's been really good to work with ~ he's really helped the city of Portia."

Covey said that grant eligibility is based on median family income. In addition Rural Development offers a loan program. One feature is a guaranteed loan, which municipalities can use to finance larger projects.

"Local lenders are involved," Covey said. "The guarantee helps lenders be able to offer longer terms. It makes it a good deal for everyone involved.

"We'd be glad to talk to and work with other towns in the county," Spencer said. "Our goal is to help these communities get whatever services or facilities they need."

Freeman said many worked together to secure the new truck, including State Rep. J.R. Rogers and State Sen. Robert Thompson, who supported the efforts.

Those efforts will help many according to Freeman.

"It doesn't only help Portia," Freeman said. "It helps the surrounding area, as well. We will be better able to assist nearby departments."

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