U.S. Representative Hal Rogers toured the US 23 Country Music Highway Museum on Wednesday, May 4, announcing the allocation of approximately $859,000 in dedicated federal funds to upgrade Paintsville County’s emergency management communications system / Johnson.
Rogers said the funding announcement was appropriate because the Paintsville Fire Department and the WR Castle Fire Department worked successfully the day before to put out a fire that broke out on Main Street in Paintsville and avoid damaging surrounding businesses, but that this type of funding allocation was still needed in Johnson County after many years of battling recurring natural disasters.
“I’m here to tell you about your local heroes, Johnson County First Responders, and it’s an auspicious day because we had that fire yesterday, downtown,” Rogers said. “Fighters from the Paintsville and WR Castle Fire Departments worked together to fight this fire at this old apartment building on Main Street, and they responded to the call around 2 a.m., I’m told- on, and fought the fire. for more than five hours yesterday and managed to save the business next door. Many of these first responders went to work on Tuesday after battling this fire, so we applaud these men and women who put their lives on the line around the clock for you and me and this great community.
“Over the years, Johnson County has suffered greatly from severe weather events, including the deadly tornado outbreak in 2012 and the repeated flooding you experienced in the city and flash flooding in the county,” said continued Rogers, then recounting his experience in the county during that 2015 flood.
“After a deadly flood in 2015, I remember walking along the riverbank, with my friend, the late Daniel Tucker … and (Paintsville/Johnson County Emergency Management Director) Gary McClure, who Been a champion of emergency services here in Johnson County for a long time…it was such a dark day as I searched for ways to help the people of Johnson County Amidst all the debris and grief that was left behind, the devastation of these storms is something you will never completely forget,” Rogers said. “Once the storm passes, it never fails, despite the failures that occur during these storms, we hear countless stories of the heroic efforts of our first responders, who will dash through floodwaters, head for tornadoes, and cut through debris to save the lives of our neighbors here in these hills.
All of this, Rogers said, was in addition to the services provided daily by first responders in our communities, and he noted that emergency management teams and first responders often work with old and outdated equipment that has been “patched up” to prolong its longevity.
“Outside of extreme weather, our first responders rush people to hospitals with serious emergencies, put out fires, our police officers fight crime, get drugs off the streets, spend countless hours protecting people “, said Rogers. “It truly must be one of the safest places on Earth, because of the courage of our men and women and the compassion they show for the people of our hometown every day. As you know, many of our emergency management teams and first responders are working with old and outdated equipment that has been patched up and repaired to extend the longevity of their assets for as long as possible, so I am here today to announce that I was awarded an $859,000 federal award to upgrade Johnson County’s emergency communications system… This new system will eliminate communications delays and should result in faster response times, with information more effective for those who arrive on the scene first.
According to McClure, the upgrade is not only necessary, but mandatory, and will see the system converted from analogue to digital.
“We have been discussing for some time the possibility of migrating from our existing analog system to a required digital system, but we all knew the cost was going to be a big challenge. We looked at several grant opportunities and we did some of these things working through the Department of Homeland Security, and we have, over the last few years, secured funding for these projects,” McClure said. “It was baby steps. It was kind of a building process, so naturally this opportunity is going to give us a big boost to get where we need to be without putting a lot of pressure on our local budgets and sometimes it gets difficult. Naturally, we would like to thank you, Congressman (Rogers) for the earmarked funding, as without it we would not have been able to do this in the near future. There’s no doubt in my mind that it will save lives, and I know that’s exactly what (Rogers) would like us to do.
“I appreciate everyone here today, especially our first responders, law enforcement, police department, sheriff’s department and many representatives here from our county departments,” McClure said. “I can’t let this pass without wishing a happy International Firefighters Day, which happens to be today.”
Johnson County Executive Judge Mark McKenzie said the funding was critical because helping first responders do their jobs better was a top priority for elected officials.
“That’s why we’re here today, to recognize and support our first responders,” Johnson County Executive Judge Mark McKenzie said. “(Rogers) has always supported our first responders with the funds necessary to protect our citizens. Sometimes, as we work to represent our communities, we need to remember that the safety of our audience is a priority and we need to have the resources to do so. Congressman Rogers understands this and appreciates our first responders. He obviously tries to help in any way he can. He gave this community this opportunity to access funding that would help advance our services in this community and help our first responders do their work which they already do in an exceptional way but we are trying to help them do better every day.