Grant helps Fire Department secure new exercise equipment
on November 14, 2009
To stay ready to race to emergency calls, Richmond firefighters will have eight new treadmills installed in the city’s seven fire stations and a training center, the City Council decided unanimously on Nov. 3.
The T11 treadmills, produced by BH Fitness Corp., carry a price tag of just under $3,200 each.
Police Chief Michael Banks said. “Keeping our firefighters fit is a key part of maintaining a high level of service.”
Particularly appealing to Banks is that 80 percent of the cost, $20,300, will be picked up by a federal firefighters’ assistance grant the fire department applied for last year, meaning the machines cost the city only $5,075.
At Fire Station 64 in the 4800 block of Bayview Avenue, a new treadmill should mean more frequent walking and jogging by time-pressed firefighters in the understaffed department, said engineer Rico Rincon. The worn treadmill currently in the station has sat in a recreation room since before Rincon joined the staff 7 years ago.
He said his comrades in his station are pleased to get new equipment amidst an era of unfilled vacancies and budget reductions.
“People hardly use the treadmill at all,” Rincon said, adding that slipping belts and inoperable gauges have reduced the machine’s performance. “Finding time to work out is hard enough, but when the machines are beat down it’s just one more reason not to.”
Rincon said he would use the machine.
“I can’t speak for the others, some of them really like to use the elliptical machine we have, but I know I will use the treadmill.”
Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said she and her council colleagues agreed with Banks’ rationale, which is key to approving any spending when budgets are so constrained.
“Chief Banks felt this was a necessity for his department’s health and wellness program to ensure that firefighters are maintaining their endurance in order to serve our community as emergency first-response providers,” McLaughlin said.
The health and performance of personnel may be especially important during these cash-strapped times, Banks said. His department, like most others in Richmond and in cities across the country, has been forced by budget pressures to do more with less.
With 86 firefighters, the department is down from the 94 it fielded two years ago.
“We just can’t fill the eight vacancies for the time being,” Banks said.
In budget year 2008-9, the department was hit with a 12 percent budget reduction, followed by another 8 percent cut agreed on in 2009-10, Banks said.
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