Commissioners will use $433,624 in COVID-19/American Rescue Plan Relief Funds to purchase equipment for the fire department, sheriff’s office and other county departments.

Commissioners approved requesting a draw down of funds to make the purchases at their regular meeting Oct. 5.

The bulk of the money will be used to buy 40 self-contained breathing apparatuses (SCBA), radios and a drone for the county’s public safety personnel.

County Fire Chief Santo Niño reported the SCBA’s are an urgent need. He said the county’s current SCBA’s are 1981 models and are nearing end of life.

Chief Niño said the new SCBA’s will help Pierce County’s firefighters stay safe during search and rescue operations inside burning buildings. The SCBA’s have an alarm to help locate firefighters.

Chief Niño also reported the COVID relief funds will be used to buy radios for  the fire department, sheriff’s office and public works.  Niño said he hopes to eventually get all three departments on uniform and compatible radios.

Sheriff Ramsey Bennett was not able to be present at the meeting, but he has requested the purchase of a drone for his office.

The drone will be used for situations where an elevated view is needed.

County Chairman Neal Bennett used water rescues and missing person reports as examples of ways the drone can be used.

The drone provides up to 60 times magnification and is effective up to six miles away. A recent test allowed participants at the sheriff’s office on Pierce Industrial Boulevard to locate a deputy at the courthouse and see that the deputy was holding up four fingers.

The drone can also be used  by the road department to identify and correct problems with roads.  

In additional COVID-19 relief spending, the commissioners approved an expenditure of $9,745 for ransomware protection for the county’s computer systems.

The board also agreed to seek bids to make all county bathrooms touchless.

Touchless bathrooms will help to cut down on germs and reduce the spread of illness.