In a community where the population has grown at a faster rate than municipal finances, Marysville's Division of Fire has captured its share of state and federal funds by aggressively seeking grants to bolster its budget.

In a community where the population has grown at a faster rate than municipal finances, Marysville's Division of Fire has captured its share of state and federal funds by aggressively seeking grants to bolster its budget.

Fire chief Gary Johnson said federal grants have helped pay for major equipment purchases that the city couldn't afford.

"We have been very fortunate," Johnson said. "It takes some hard work but it's worth it. We have received numerous grants through the state and federal government."

Johnson pointed to a recent grant for a new Jaws of Life unit as an example.

"We were just awarded a grant for $38,000 last week for the replacement of our 22-year-old extrication equipment," he said. "That was in our budget this year and it got axed. There's only so much money coming in and there's so much money going out."

He also noted that a federal grant paid for the replacement of an aging ladder truck.

"We would be in pretty serious trouble if we didn't get these grants," Johnson said. "For example, in 2004 we got a $750,000 grant from the federal government to replace our aerial ladder. That was in 2004, to replace a 1973 aerial tower that was on its last leg. Some of these big-ticket items, we just can't afford to replace them ourselves."

Johnson said the city is doing what it can to support its firefighters. Last year, city council appropriated approximately $300,000 to pay for a new fire engine when the old one was deemed unsafe and had to be removed from service. Last week, during her State of the City address, Mayor Chris Schmenk called for a study of division of fire, police and municipal court facilities that she called "woefully inadequate."

"We've just been lucky so far with these grants," Johnson said. "I don't think it's something you can depend on because things change, but we have been very fortunate."

Johnson said Marysville has received funding in seven of the eight years that the federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant has been in existence. Since 2002, Marysville has received nearly $1-million from that grant alone.

"It began in 2001 and we have been able to hit it every year except for the first year that it came out, which is almost unheard of," he said. "We do it ourselves. It's usually either the assistant chief (Jay Riley) or myself (writing the grant applications)."

Johnson said Marysville's success rate in applying for federal grants illustrates an underlying problem.

"A lot of it is our needs," he said. "Our needs are that significant that they can't be funded (locally). So it can be properly explained that way to the federal government. I guess it's a good thing that we're getting the grants but on the other hand, it's a statement of need, too."

Johnson said the city has won grants for other county agencies as well.

"A lot of the things that we do are not just for ourselves," he said. "We're working with other fire departments and the EMA in the county. It's a shared resource. When we're talking about grants, we're not only looking at applying for grants for ourselves. We're also looking at teaming up with other people, other emergency services, fire departments, law enforcement and EMA."

Johnson said grants have paid for more than just capital equipment purchases.

"We have gotten all kinds of things and they have all been needed," he said. "We have a smoke-detector program. We got a $43,000 grant from the federal government for thatÉ. We did targeted installations for at-risk homes in our jurisdiction and we still have that program. That was in 2003, and we still have probably 600 smoke detectors left. That program still continues. The only thing people have to do is come in and pick them up."

jdonahue@thisweeknews.com