Casper Council Meeting Gets Heated Over Firefighter Regulators
At the Casper City Council meeting on Tuesday, they unanimously agreed to spend $92,981 of CARES act funding to purchase 30 regulators for Casper firefighters, in spite of intense disagreement over how the city should spend its money.
Deputy fire chiefs Devin Garvin and Jason Speiser both came to the council with equipment in tow to demonstrate how the regulators work and why they need one for each firefighter, rather than sharing them amongst themselves.
Garven said that the recent Mills fire showed the need for more regulators because of how many firefighters were needed, they needed to switch out crews during the fire, making it necessary to clean regulators before handing them off to a new crew.
If each firefighter had their own regulator, Garven said it would have been easier to switch crews, because as is, they had to disinfect them in 19 degrees weather, making it more difficult.
Councilmember Bruce Knell, who was initially opposed to buying the regulators, said that his main concern was the example it sets for departments to come to the city for funding rather than attempt to get grant funding.
"The Laramie Fire Department went to their city council, and they asked for funding to get each man a regulator for their Scott masks, and they were denied, and they were told to go and find funding because it's available," Knell said. "That's why I ask the firemen tonight if they had seemed out additional funding. And there is FEMA funding available, according to the chief in Laramie, and another grant funding. I would like to table this and give our department time to try and go out to find that federal funding that's there and available before we use our general budget, which is also shrinking just like theirs is. There's money available, let's go try to get it. That's been my point the whole time."
In response, Speiser said that there may be ARPA funding available to the fire department to pay for the regulators, but it could take up to six months to get that money, and they need the equipment now.
Vice Mayor Steve Freel said he doesn't understand why there is an issue when it comes to giving money to the fire department to buy the regulators.
"I just find it asinine, and I again will agree with what you said, we find money like that to go fix projects that are not broken," Freel said. "But when we equipment that's needed, we're finding a million excuses not to buy it...This was needed, this was put out there, but it went over budget. It's being used off CARES funding, which the CARES funding, that is money that was given back during COVID for reimbursement, it should go to this equipment. I don't know why we continue to have this discussion, but as far as I'm concerned, this is a no-brainer. They need the equipment, give them the equipment."
Knell said that while he won't oppose buying the regulators now, he wants the fire department, when they come back to purchase new regulators in the future, to seek out grant funding before they come to the council.
Mayor Ray Pacheco said because of how much extra CARES act funding the city has, he doesn't understand why spending $92,000 on regulators is a big deal.
"If we're going to sit here and debate $92,000 for equipment that our firefighters need, and we used $50,000 for the event center for promotion for that," Pacheco said. "We can use $92,000 in an $11 million pot. We should never have been to this point. Our firefighters deserve it and I think I made my point. We used $50,000 at the event center, and we all were like 'yes that's great, that's a good use of our funding.' And we have $11 million in our CARES funding which is going to go for lifesaving equipment. Shame on us. Thank you, gentlemen."