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Bellaire VFD seeks to become emergency shelter

BELLAIRE — As the area remains under an extreme heat advisory this weekend, the only cooling shelter in Bellaire is at the Bellaire Salvation Army on 37th Street in the village.

But Volunteer Fire Chief Josh McMahon announced at Thursday’s Bellaire Village Council meeting there are future plans to upgrade Bellaire’s fire station, turning it into an emergency shelter location approved for use by both the Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

A new generator and expansion of air conditioning to the truck bays is what is needed to meet the requirements, according to McMahon. Getting the distinction of being an emergency shelter also could make the building eligible for additional grant funding in the future that would defer maintenance costs, he told council.

McMahon set the cost of the upgrades at $64,000, with a $25,000 grant toward that cost already made available through local electric businesses. Mountain Aire Heating and Air Conditioning is designated to do the work.

Council unanimously approved covering the remainder of the cost, with members saying money could be pulled out of the village’s Commerce Park fund to pay the bill.

McMahon said the air conditioning project could be done is as little as two weeks, while it would probably take 12 weeks before the generator could be installed.

McMahon also told council the village has received a $2,500 grant to purchase smoke detectors, and these will be distributed to village residents who currently don’t have them.

He also spoke of the fire happening on the 1500 block of Franklin Avenue Saturday night, clarifying to council and the public that firefighting efforts were not hampered by a lack of water.

“There are lot of misconceptions about the fire Saturday night,” McMahon said. “The water line break on Washington Avenue didn’t affect us as much as people think. There were no hydrant issues.”

Rather, the amount of water coming from the four hydrants wasn’t enough to meet the needs of the fire, he explained. At the height of the fire, firefighters were using 4,500 gallons a minute. Bellaire trucks were being supplied on the scenes by trucks from other departments filling up at stations in the 26th Street Plaza and the Bellaire Marina, according to McMahon.

“From the four hydrants we had good (amounts of) water, contrary to the popular belief that’s out there,” he said.

Council had a lengthy discussion about whether or not they could hire two part-time workers to do needed grass cutting in the village, as well as work to fill potholes and paint street lines. The workers were to replace employees not replaced, and the expense was already in the budget, members said.

Village Clerk-Auditor Thomas Sable was not present, but Councilman Donnie Maupin called him during the meeting to determine if council could move to hire the needed help. Maupin said Sable told him they could if they limited the employees’ hours to just five hours a day, 30 hours per week, and set a date for the work to end.

Council unanimously passed a resolution authorizing the hiring of two part-time employees who will work no more than 30 hours a week. They were will be hired for temporary, “seasonal” need, but no end date was set.

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