In August of 2020, Chief Jeff Werner, from the Murray Fire Department presented his Pillars Grant application to the Clarke County Development Corporation (CCDC) board. The $51,553.00 grant request was to help in the purchase of a replacement First Responder Vehicle for the department. While the grant was approved with speed, it took more than three years for the department to finally receive the truck.

“This was a long haul,” said Chief Werner. “The timing of our request along with COVID shutdowns and materials shortages made every step of the process more difficult.”

While the total cost of the vehicle, including customizations and equipment, was estimated at $103,106, the volunteer department had already raised more than half of that to bring as matching funds to the CCDC grant process. With delays from COVID the truck’s build-out screeched to a virtual halt as the department waited for parts.

Murray Volunteer Fire Department

The New Murray Emergency Vehicle was made possible, in part, by a 2020 CCDC Pillars Grant.

Even with time delays and the rise in equipment costs, the fees for the vehicle’s lights and body came in lower than expected. Osceola’s Altec Body Plant were the manufacturers for truck’s body development. While the fabrication from Altec came in their standard white body color, the department took the innovative step to use a vehicle wrap for the “Paint and graphics.” With this solution, future savings will be realized as parts or equipment need replacement. Instead of repainting the entire vehicle, the wrap will be the only item requiring an update for the new part.

“A couple of the items for the vehicle were considerably more than our original budget, but worth the investment,” said Werner.

The Emergency radio system, budgeted at $1,500, came in at a whopping $6,400. Although much more than expected, the new radio system is state-of-the-art and is networked into state-wide radio channels wherein the department has access to communications lines across the state. This will help with their first responder times as well as coordination with surrounding agencies on civic and community emergencies.

This new First Responder truck replaces a 1988 model the department had been using for decades. Murray’s older truck, as more equipment had been added over the years, was getting close to overloading its GVWR weight rating. It also has a manual transmission where the other trucks in their fleet are automatics. Many of the newer department members don’t know how to drive manual transmission vehicles, causing increased issues finding qualified drivers.

“This is the most widely used truck,” said Werner. “It’s the first vehicle that goes to all First Responder calls and most fire calls.”

While two pumper vehicles were purchased through extensive community donations and fundraising in 2012 – replacing a 1968 and 1977 model trucks – the 1988 First Responder vehicle was held for replacement until at least 50% of the funding was secured. Considering the recent purchases of the pumper trucks and the total operating budget of the department at just around $50,000 annually, the CCDC grant, paired with additional efforts to fund the new vehicle, was imperative.

“This is a great example of the Clarke County citizens coming together, using local manufacturers and local workforce, to make our community a better and safer place to live,” said Bill Trickey, CCDC Executive Director.

With a team of almost two dozen fire and EMS volunteers, the Murray Fire Department serves 148 square miles with a minimal five percent protected by fire hydrants. Communities the Murray Department covers include Troy, Madison, and Doyle, much of Pleasant and parts of Jones and Union Counties. They also provide Mutual Aid for Lorimor, Grand River, Afton, New Virginia and the Osceola Fire Departments. In an average year, the Murray Fire Department responds to more than 30 fire and 30 EMS calls.

If you have questions about the new Murray Emergency Vehicle or would like more information about the Murray Community Fire Department, please reach out to Chief Jeff Werner through Murray City Hall at 421 Maple Street, Murray, IA, 50174 or by emailing: [email protected].

Additional information on grant opportunities for Clark County organizations can be found at the Clarke County Development Corporation’s website or by calling 641-342-2944.

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