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  1. #1
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    Unhappy Small town vehicle acquisition: computer scoring

    Our small rural town (just over 1000 population) really needs an upgrade in its tanker fleet. Both our trucks are converted milk or fuel trucks, both over 25 years old, one of which sits on a partially wooden frame. Seems like we should have a shot. Yet from what I understand of the computer scoring cost-benefit ratio calculation, we have almost zero chance.

    If I get this right, the computer does something like: cost divided by (population times service life). I'm not sure what they assume the service life of a tanker is, lets say thirty years. Well 30x1000=30,000. From what I read on these boards and others the idea is to keep the c/b number under a dollar. So that gives us a ceiling of $30,000 to get thru the computer scoring.

    Good luck getting even a roadworthy used tanker for that. Our call volume is also low of course, so that computer score will run against us too. However as a rural area tanker supply is obviously critical both for us and our mutual aid towns. We could buy everyone nice buckets, I guess.

    Am I misinformed on how this works? Is applying for money for a new tanker simply a waste of time? Can we apply for partial funding as a way to reduce the hit on taxpayers if we ask the town to fund it, and if so how do we work this in the application process?

    Thanks very much in advance for your input.

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    I was told the same thing and believed it. I informed the Chief there was no chances of getting funded for a commercial pumper but wrote the grant anyways. Central City Fire Department serves a city of 531 people and averages three building fires a year. CCFD received an 11th round 2008 AFG award for a commercial pumper (federal share 197,600.)

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    You can't win if you don't play the game.
    There are plenty of small departments that get awards. Our total pop served is 3,100 and in 2006 we got a pumper/tanker fed share $213,500.00.
    Best advice I can give is to go to one of Kurt's seminars, you will recoupe the cost in one sucessful grant.

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    Kurt's seminars are great, but it will cost you big money, and now you have to pay more after that if you even want to talk to him after the seminar is over. I attended one and so far have had no success using his advice. Am very frustrated about it!

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    I wrote our grant in 2007 got $285000 for 3000gal pumper tanker w/CAFS. 35mi2 total pop 385 including unhydranted town pop 128.

    Replacing an unbaffled milk tanker. I think this is what made the difference in winning. This program is 1st about safety improvement.

    It doesn't take that long to fill out the application.

    Alternative funding stream is USDA Rural Dev. Right now they have a very large pot of $ from the Obama pork bill. % you can get from grant is based on your household income (2000 census). max grant is 70% as I recall.

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    I feel your pain... I'm hoping the third time is the charm for my tanker app... Pop of 5,000 in a 20 sq mi district with a $70k budget... Hoping to replace a 1977 1,500 gal tanker with a gas engine and a fuel transfer pump to refill tank... Hoping the computer is a little more forgiving this year...

    Was hoping to save USDA to replace the 1978 Pierce pumper, but if we don't get the tanker on AFG, I may just have to go that route...

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    I would have to agree with some of the previous post. I have helped write truck grants for several departments in our area, all with under 1k in pop, and call volume of less than 20 (some less than 10) structure fires per year, and have been fortunate enough to be awarded 8 vehicles from these apps. I know that scoring is changed a little each time to update the criteria for the program. I would highly suggest getting into one of the grant classes, be it Kurt's or Brian's just getting the knowledge to be competitive is a huge step in the right direction. Also utilize the knowledge on these forums, there are a lot of great minds on here that are more than willing to help if you just ask.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Limeforever View Post
    I would have to agree with some of the previous post. I have helped write truck grants for several departments in our area, all with under 1k in pop, and call volume of less than 20 (some less than 10) structure fires per year, and have been fortunate enough to be awarded 8 vehicles from these apps. I know that scoring is changed a little each time to update the criteria for the program. I would highly suggest getting into one of the grant classes, be it Kurt's or Brian's just getting the knowledge to be competitive is a huge step in the right direction. Also utilize the knowledge on these forums, there are a lot of great minds on here that are more than willing to help if you just ask.
    Great minds he says...

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    Smile Look at your cost benefit

    Quote Originally Posted by Jman136 View Post
    Kurt's seminars are great, but it will cost you big money, and now you have to pay more after that if you even want to talk to him after the seminar is over. I attended one and so far have had no success using his advice. Am very frustrated about it!
    We hosted Kurt last year, we had 30 attendees who paid $299.00 each or $8970.00 Grants awarded to attendees of the class $766,552.00. That is not including a station grant that has made it to the second round worth 2.4 million. Looks like a pretty good return on the investment if you ask me.
    Mark

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    I'm glad to hear the conventional wisdom is actually incorrect, but it makes me wonder how this mythical "cost benefit" calculation (which I've pointed out elsewhere is in fact nothing of the sort) really works.....

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    You should also include any populations you have mutual aid/automatic aid agreements with. Check to see if you have any tier 1 or tier 2 critical infrastructure within 50 miles of you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cornwallfire View Post
    OYet from what I understand of the computer scoring cost-benefit ratio calculation, we have almost zero chance.

    I don't think its the cost benefit that is your concern here. What kind of numbers do you have on your runs?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jman136 View Post
    Kurt's seminars are great, but it will cost you big money, and now you have to pay more after that if you even want to talk to him after the seminar is over. I attended one and so far have had no success using his advice. Am very frustrated about it!
    Kurt's seminar was the best program I have ever attended. Prior to the seminar I was 0 for 3 on AFG grants. Since the seminar I have received funding for all 8 AFG applications I have submitted. These grants were wrote for my department and a neighboring department that both have less than 10 building fires a year. I recommend Kurt's seminar to everyone.

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    Yes, I got a lot of great ideas form Kurt's seminar. I have submitted three grants with Kurt's help before he became unavailable to me and so far I have won none of them. Not sure what the problem is, I am just confused. I could really still use his advice, but I can not without paying near $1k a year. Money my company will not even consider until it see positive results.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jam24u View Post
    You should also include any populations you have mutual aid/automatic aid agreements with. Check to see if you have any tier 1 or tier 2 critical infrastructure within 50 miles of you.
    You could include your mutual aid area demographics in your narrative, but it should not be included in your data entry area; this is the main topic of his question I believe.

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    Cost benefit gets a lot of apps canned in the peer review. Remember PEER, meaning other ff's are looking at your app. MOst ff's know what a vehicle cost, so don't go in asking for steak when all you need is a nice thick and juicy hamburger. I have seen that happen way too many times.

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    Small volunteer departments can & do score well in competitive applications.
    You just need to write a compelling narrative and hope that your numbers will get you by the computer. This might mean asking for a basic no frills pumper versus a big $$$ parade truck with lots of chrome and Q's & other non necessities.
    A neighboring dept with a population of 1800 and low call volume scored well enough 3 years ago to be funded for 256k. They spent over 350k before they were done and had to fund the additional $$$ themselves through a low interest loan. In the end they have a well designed CAFS pumper on a custom cab chassis with the majority funded by AFG.

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    Kurt has to make a living too. Now he is out on his own trying to help as many departments as he can. Before he worked for Chief and they provided his services at a huge discount hoping that some of the successful grant money would come back their way. I asked them to submit quotes on portions of a successful FPS grant from last year. They came in very competitively and got my business.

    This is a hard time to start any new business. I trust Kurt and know he is doing everything he can to make his costs affordable. Unfortunately, with the complexity of these grant programs, we may have to spend a little to win a LOT!

    Since attending Kurt's seminar in Milwaukee a couple of years ago I am batting over .500. Sure, I would like to win them all but that is not realisitic. So I keep working hard and looking for funding options to serve my community. We are all doing our best. I only wish our communities recognized how hard we work on these applications and how hard we take every denial.

    Hang in there everyone. From the posts on another thread, it looks like the money is going to flow soon.

    Best of luck.

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    Hopefully no one takes this the wrong way since Kurt is my friend too, but to be accurate Homeland Defense Journal is backing him now and charging for services is the only way the feds aren't going to come down on a grant writing resource as being biased even though most of us were impartial since we didn't get involved in the bid processes. Plus many of the apps we helped with went to other vendors. Many did the wrong thing and crossed that line in the sand but rather than use the existing laws and get rid of those breaking them they decided to wipe everyone out since it's easier that way with no thinking involved. So now we're on our own for workshops and writing also. I don't like to go back to charging for anything since there are those that can't afford us and we're one of the least expensive on the market, but it's the only legal way to operate now as a grant writing business.

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    Quote Originally Posted by utfd701 View Post
    You can't win if you don't play the game.
    There are plenty of small departments that get awards. Our total pop served is 3,100 and in 2006 we got a pumper/tanker fed share $213,500.00.
    Best advice I can give is to go to one of Kurt's seminars, you will recoupe the cost in one sucessful grant.
    You hit the nail on head... If you don't apply for funding, you are guaranteed NOT to get it. Same thing with the lottery. Now I am not advocating everyone to go play the lottery, simply making an analogy with F.D. funding.
    Be safe all..
    EW
    Stay low brother!

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    In 6 years of trying we have never made it past the computer for vehicles. Yet in those same years been awarded Ops & Safety when we submitted multiple applications all awarded in early rounds. I've adjusted the cost of the pumper down as low as $150k and asked for as much as $238k, outcome has always been the same. During those years, reported 10-17 structure fires, (total non-ems call volume around 70), 1750 population, and current fleet 1974 & 1985 engines. I wish I could pinpoint the issue. Never-the-less, it has not kept me from trying or submitting apps. A few years ago I went to both Kurts and Brians seminars. Didn't help with getting past the computer for vehicles, but got good ideas and proceeded to be sucessful with ops grants.
    I think their contribution to this forum and most anyone who really talks with them, as well as the other regular contributers to this forum is fantastic. I would be a hurting pup without all these good folks' opinions. (Thats my opinion.) Now if someone can tell me what makes one similar small dept get past the computer and us not, THAT would be worthwhile!
    Morale of the story: never say never.
    Last edited by hinesfire; 08-22-2009 at 01:59 PM.

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    Hinesfire: If any of us could figure out the miracle of getting past the computer scoring we would be a wizard.
    Our dept has been 3 for 5 with ops & equipment in AFG and 0 for 6 with vehicles.
    Last year [08] we finally made it to peer review for a 1985 tanker replacement and had less calls than the prexious 6 years. We made it to a very late DJ from peer ,so no funding. This year we have taken delivery of a new brush truck to replace a 1982 and a new ambulance to replace a 1995. .There goes our fleet average age and so we didn't even try again this year.We figured that 08 was our best chance with all our existing funds [savings] slated to replace the brush truck & ambulance.
    The only thing any of us can do is to keep trying to improve our knowledge and polish our grant writing skills.
    Remember we stand a zero percent chance of funding if we don't keep trying!

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    So wait a minute, island, you're killing me. You say keep trying and you didn't yourself? We need to send you back to Jedi training school.

    Fleet age is primarily calculated within the same categories first so pumper, tanker, and quints/aerials (the bigguns) are the primary age determinant. Brush and ambulance don't count so much when you're going after a tanker because they are cheaper vehicles in comparison plus have completely different purposes. I've got a long list of folks funded with newer boxes and brush units. Heck, most of the double truck winners got a new brush from AFG and then a new pumper or tanker, or vice-versa. You probably passed into Peer because you finally hit the right age average on the big fleet in 2008, odds are the same result would have come up in 2009 to get read again.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jman136 View Post
    Kurt's seminars are great, but it will cost you big money, and now you have to pay more after that if you even want to talk to him after the seminar is over. I attended one and so far have had no success using his advice. Am very frustrated about it!
    JMan136, sorry that I don't recognize who you are or your department is but, since you were a client and student it does not mean you could not have called me. If your applications are failing and they were done while I was at CHIEF then you could still call me and I would have been glad to try and figure out what is wrong wihtout charge. I stand behind my work and you are certainly entitiled to an explanation of why something failed. Call me or email me offline. 863-551-9598 or kurt.bradley@homelanddefensejournal.net.
    Kurt Bradley
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    " Never Trade Skill for Luck"

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    Quote Originally Posted by BC79er View Post
    Hopefully no one takes this the wrong way since Kurt is my friend too, but to be accurate Homeland Defense Journal is backing him now and charging for services is the only way the feds aren't going to come down on a grant writing resource as being biased even though most of us were impartial since we didn't get involved in the bid processes. Plus many of the apps we helped with went to other vendors. Many did the wrong thing and crossed that line in the sand but rather than use the existing laws and get rid of those breaking them they decided to wipe everyone out since it's easier that way with no thinking involved. So now we're on our own for workshops and writing also. I don't like to go back to charging for anything since there are those that can't afford us and we're one of the least expensive on the market, but it's the only legal way to operate now as a grant writing business.
    No offense taken Brian. The decision was not your's or my choice. It was forced upon us. The pricing structure was carefully considered in light of the Volunteer FD budgets and is by no means unreasonable. Cost for a workshop and a years worth of reviewing services is still well under the cost of one set of turnout gear.
    Kurt Bradley
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    " Never Trade Skill for Luck"

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