In recognition of the dedicated service provided to the residents of Mills River throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mills River Town Council has earmarked $75,000 in funding to the remarkable staff and volunteers of Mills River Fire and Rescue.
In March of this year President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. This Act provided direct funding to all local governments across the country and Mills River was awarded $2.3 million.
Of the four primary eligible uses of this funding, premium pay for essential workers was the topic of conversation last week at Town Council’s meeting. Specifically, those in the community who place themselves and their families at risk each time they respond to a call. This was a topic of conversation Councilman Brian Kimball asked Council to add to the agenda discussion during Council’s November 18, 2021 meeting. Following a brief discussion, and hearing support from his colleagues, Councilman Kimball made a motion to approve $75,000 in premium pay to Mills River Fire and Rescue. The vote was unanimous, with Mayor Chae Davis and Councilman Roger Snyder being excused from the vote as each has a family member serving within the Department.
Following the meeting Councilman Kimball stated the following, “Part of the ARPA funding allows for retroactive premium pay to essential frontline workers. The men and women of the Mills River Fire Department have served our community without hesitation throughout the COVID pandemic. Often, these men and women responded to other emergency situations such as vehicle accidents where close interaction was required increasing the risk to a COVID exposure not only to themselves, but to their own families when they returned home. Our public safety personnel should be recognized and rewarded for their service to the community, as should all essential workers whether it was public safety, health care or private business employees who kept our community, county, state, and country going during the pandemic. This pay is a positive step in that direction, and I am thankful to our staff and Council for recognizing that as well.”
Fire Chief Rick Livingston had the following to say when hearing of Town Council’s vote, “During the pandemic, service to Mills River has been challenging, and has been anything but a normal lifestyle. It has been a very tough couple of years and the fact the Town considered us for funding is very much appreciated.”
“We have been dealing with the effects of COVID on society for over a year and half” said Kimball. Our public safety and health care communities were especially hit hard, and they performed above their normal scope of work. The reality of that commitment is that they are exhausted from serving our communities and in some cases their families have paid the price for that. If you know someone in those fields, I encourage you to recognize and thank them.”
As for the remaining funds, Town Council will be working in the coming months to prioritize its efforts to ensure the residents of Mills River see the greatest possible benefit from this once in a lifetime funding opportunity.