GOSHEN - The office of U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., left a phone message for Goshen Fire Chief Sue Labrie Wednesday night. And she phoned right back.
"I was thrilled," says Labrie, when Kennedy's office staff informed her that Goshen won a U.S. Department of Homeland Security Assistance to Firefighters Grant worth $325,000.
The money will be used to buy a new fire truck.
It only took Labrie, who is finishing her first year as chief, two grant application cycles to rise to the top of the applicant pool in the highly competitive process.
"It's a huge thing," Labrie said. "There are 22,000 applicants for this money."
On Friday, the Department of Homeland Security released complete information about round one of this year's Assistance to Firefighters Grant program.
In all, 459 grants totaling more than $35 million were awarded across the country, according to the program's Web site, www.firegrantsupport.com.
Goshen's award is the eighth-highest dollar amount of the 459 grants. Only a few other fire departments across the country will receive anything close to $300,000.
The vast majority of grants are for amounts less than $100,000.
The federal share of Goshen's grant amounts to $308,750. The town of Goshen is required to fund 5 percent of the grant's cost, or $16,250.
At Town Meeting this spring, Labrie presented her argument about why the town needs to replace its aging 1960 pumper truck. The approximate cost of a new fire engine -- $390,000 -- however, was not funded at Town Meeting.
To buy a new vehicle, it appeared the town would have to ask its residents to vote to raise their property taxes, through a Proposition 21/2 debt exclusion override.
Labrie said she was not looking forward to making that appeal to residents.
"The weight lifted last night," she said. "We were worried about a debt-exclusion vote."
The federal grant, plus a share of money already in a town account for a fire vehicle, should now cover the complete cost of the type of fire engine Labrie and her colleagues want to buy.
The leftover money in the town's fire vehicle fund could now be used to equip the new vehicle, says Labrie. A new engine arrives with ladders but little else. Attack hose, nozzles, flashlights - all expensive - have to be purchased in addition.
The Goshen Fire Department has had an organized truck purchase committee in place since 2005. In just a few weeks, it should be ready to go out to bid.
And in a year or so, the new engine would arrive.
Selectman Joe Dunn said Labrie deserves thanks for her hard work with the grant application. He's looking forward to the grant money, too.
"It's like Christmas in July" blares the headline on the homepage of the Goshen Fire Department Web site, www.goshenmafire.com.