bill relaxes rules for spending on “restricted” funds from the volunteer fire department | News

The proposed legislation would make it easier for volunteer firefighters to purchase sports drinks like Gatorade and other supplies that industry leaders deem essential for fighting fires during Alabama summers.

Volunteer fire departments, of which there are dozens across the state, operate on limited and unrestricted funds. Restricted funds include those from state grants, tax revenues, or county credits. As directed by the Alabama Public Accounts Examiner, expenditures of restricted funds may include the purchase of fire trucks and stations, firefighting and communications equipment, training, and assurance.

But restricted funds cannot be spent on food or drink, appliances in a fire station kitchen, or wages. Instead, these things must be purchased with private money, including donations from fundraising income.

“That means they couldn’t buy these things without fundraising specifically for that purchase,” said representative Chip Brown, R-Hollinger’s Island.

Brown’s House Bill 25 would allow spending of restricted funds on kitchen equipment, as well as “the purchase of replacement electrolyte or sports drinks, water and similar liquid foods in any form. whether for use by volunteer firefighters during a fire call or during line training exercises. of duty.”

Keeping volunteer firefighters hydrated is an essential part of the job and services should be able to provide necessities if they choose to do so, Brown told the Alabama Daily News.

Fire departments should track both restricted and unrestricted spending of funds and abuse or mix of funds may be reported by the examiner’s office.

Being able to use public money for food and drink would ease accounting headaches and just make sense, said David Wade Jr., chief of the Grand Bay Volunteer Fire Department.

Its service has volunteers who sometimes spend the night at the station.

Brown’s bill would make it easier for Wade to provide meals for volunteers. And in the summer, he could provide more sports drinks instead of mainly water, because it is cheaper.

“There is a lot of confusion about what you can and cannot spend (restricted) money on,” Wade said.

Brown said the multiple volunteer districts cover portions of I-10.

“On some occasions they’re there for 24 hours to deal with chemical spills, fires, or deaths… they should have things like Gatorades and water readily available to them.”