« PreviousContinue »
Township Volunteer Fire Department north of South Bend get organized. It is the company that takes care of a township which lies between the University of Notre Dame and the Michigan State line, it is the second most populous unincorporated township in Indiana. I am a member of that department.
By helping them organize I became acquainted with their problems of organization, finance, and getting equipment. Since that time we have had a number of companies organized within the county and in other parts of the State, and I join with Mr. Fogarty in saying that this is a very dedicated group of individuals who give of their time, their money, and even some have given their lives in being volunteer firemen and fighting fire and other disasters within our communities. I, too, regret that various governmental departments have given unfavorable reports concerning these various bills that have been introduced and let me say, Mr. Chairman, I hope that the committee will, in its great wisdom, see it possible to permit a bill to be reported out. Mr. Chairman, I will support any bill that comes out that will put volunteer fire companies on the eligible list for donable surplus Government property.
I regret that the governmental departments have seen fit to give an unfavorable report on these bills, because when one looks over the list of eligible organizations, I think it was an unintentional oversight or just that the volunteer fire companies were not in the mind of Congress at the time the original act was passed.
They were just forgotten. Here is a group of people, both men and women, as with every volunteer company one will always find an auxiliary, who will give suppers, who give bingo games, who give fish fries, who collect waste paper and other types of material to sell and raise money so that they can provide themselves with equipment to fight fires in order to save lives and property within their community. By the courtesy of our colleagues, Mr. Hyde, of Maryland; and Mr. Broyhill, of Virginia, we have a number of volunteer firemen here this morning, Mr. Chairman. These men represent the thousands and thousands of volunteer firemen and the auxiliaries who are in the United States today.
The gentleman in the gray suit here nearest the chairman is Mr. Ferris Filley, who is the present president of the Dunn Loring Volunteer Fire Department, of Fairfax County, Va.
Then we have Mr. G. B. Robinson, the chief of the Burke Volunteer Fire Department, of Fairfax County, Va., and past president of the county association.
Then, next here, in the blue suit, we have Mr. Milton Alexander, fire commissioner of the Franconia Fire Department, of Fairfax County, Va.
On the other side of the table we have with us W. J. Thomas III, president of the Sandy Spring Volunteer Fire Department and the chairman of the public relations committee of the Montgomery County, Md., Association of Volunteer Firemen.
I know that if the chairman or the members of the committee have any questions that they might have concerning volunteer fire companies or their operation or what this donable property would mean to them, these gentlemen would be most happy to facilitate the committee in that regard.
Thank you, sir.
(The statement in full of Mr. Nimtz follows:)
STATEMENT OF HON. F. J. NIMTZ, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF INDIANA
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I want to thank the committee for the opportunity of appearing here this morning with many of my colleagues concerning proposed legislation to make volunteer fire companies eligible for the donation of surplus governmental property. My bill is H. R. 3406, and there are other similar bills which have been introduced.
Also here this morning are a number of representatives from volunteer fire companies near Washington. It would have been possible to get many of these volunteers to appear here this morning from all parts of the country. However, they would have had to do so at their own expense, or at the expense of their departments. Further, because of the full agenda for this morning's meeting, it was felt that several volunteers from the immediate area would do a good job of representing their compatriot companies throughout the entire United States. I am sure that the committee is aware of the interest in this bill on the part of a number of volunteer fire companies and firemen throughout the country because of the large amount of correspondence that has been received.
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I speak from experience in this field, as I am a member of the Clay Township, St. Joseph County, Ind., Fire Department, which is the second most populous unincorporated township in Indiana. It is immediately north of South Bend, and lies between the University of Notre Dame and the Indiana-Michigan State line. I helped organize this department in 1947, and, thus, I am well acquainted with the problems of financing a department and of securing adequate equipment with which a volunteer department can perform the mission for which it was organized.
These gentlemen and their ladies (for wherever you find one of these volunteer companies, you also find a ladies' auxiliary to the department) give many hours of their time in building equipment or raisng money to provide equipment so that they may have an adequate department to safeguard the lives and property of their fellow citizens. They are a dedicated group of individuals, who regularly give 1 or 2 evenings per week in training for their mission, or building their equpment or keeping it in shape; and then they agree to respond at the time of any emergency-day or night-to fight a fire that threatens their property or their neighbors' property, or the lives of their fellow citzens.
Most of these departments have cooperative arrangements with adjoining departments to respond to their call for aid whenever the occasion arises. These companies perform a service and governmental function that would ordinarily be paid for by an addition to the local tax rate. However, often the taxable value of the property within the township or community is not great enough to raise funds sufficient to staff adequately a paid department, and, thus, these volunteers fill this need by organizing and maintaining a volunteer fire-fighting company.
Under section 203 of the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949, Federal surplus personal property determined by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to be usable and necessary for educational or public-health purposes, including research, may be donated by the Administrator of General Services through State surplus property distribution agencies to tax-supported or nonprofit tax-exempt medical institutions, hospitals, clinics, health centers, school systems, schools, colleges, and universities. Under a recent amendment by Public Law 655 of the 84th Congress, surplus personal property usable and necessary for civil-defense purposes may, in like manner, be donated to civil-defense organizations of States, or political subdivisions and instrumentalities thereof. With respect to both of these programs-by delegation from the Federal Civil Defense Administration in the latter case-such property is allocated among the several States by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, although, within the several States, distribution to eligible agencies and organizations is made by the State distribution agencies subject to basic Federal regulations and standards.
Also, surplus personal property under the control of the Defense Department which is determined by the Secretary of Defense to be usable and necessary for "educational activities which are of special interest to the armed services”— a phrase which has been very broadly interpreted-may be donated for such activities pursuant to allocation by the Secretary of Defense. Such defense
related donations are given priority over donations under the other two programs.
H. R. 3406, and bills similar to it, would add to the eligible list for donation of Federal personal surplus property volunteer fire companies and departments. The items which would be available for distribution would, of course, vary from time to time, and would differ and would be of various quantities in different parts of the country; because, as personal property items are declared surplus, they are moved to the closest point of distribution, and are not distributed equally to the various points throughout the country. To do so would cause expense of sorting, packing, and transportation.
From my investigation of this program, it is my belief that volunteer firefighting companies would be able to secure such items as rope, tarpaulins, shovels, axes, picks, lanterns, and other pieces of equipment that would assist them in fighting a fire and protecting property. Also, if they maintain a kitchen at their headquarters, they could possibly secure surplus chinaware, knives, forks, spoons, and cooking utensils. On occasions, stoves have been declared surplus. It is my belief that the enactment of this bill to include fire-fighting organization in the list of eligible organizations would not hurt nor compete with commercial equipment companies whose business is the sale of fire-fighting equipment, as the items would be small in nature and ones which are considered as expendable items by the departments, in that they wear out within a relatively short period of time, either through use or breakage. The volunteer companies would continue to purchase fire trucks, high-pressure fog equipment, hose, nozzles, aerial ladders, and the like.
Mr. NIMTZ. On behalf of our colleague, Mr. Broomfield, of Michigan, I should like to file a statement on his behalf, sir.
Mr. McCORMACK. Without objection, it is so ordered. (Statement of Mr. Broomfield follows:)
STATEMENT OF HON. WILLIAM S. BROOMFIELD, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MICHIGAN
Mr. Chairman, volunteer fire-fighting organizations are the only lifeline in time of natural and manmade disaster for many of our Nation's communities. In many cases, these organizations lack the equipment and the facilities to cope with any large-scale conflagration.
In relation to the protection which these units furnish to the citizens of their home communities, their equipment needs are small. They consist of such things as water tanks, pumps, fire hose, tank trucks, rope, axes, hooks, and the various other paraphernalia which is required to cope with the small and large disasters which frequently strike our communities.
Much of this needed equipment is in various Federal Government warehouses, unused and unwanted. Much of it has been designated for sale as scrap. Because of the small amount of equipment which each of these volunteer units needs, these organizations are unable to compete in purchasing needed equipment in wholesale lots. They must acquire their facilities a bit and a piece at a time.
Therefore, I am sponsor of H. R. 10377 which would permit volunteer firefighting organizations to acquire this surplus Government equipment at no substantial cost to their respective communities.
This would put our surplus Federal equipment to valuable use. It would insure that the equipment needed to cope with a specific disaster at a specific spot will most likely be on hand when and where it is needed.
There is another important reason why I believe that these valuable volunteer organizations should be helped in every way possible to obtain the equipment they so badly need, yet which would be an impossible financial burden for their communities to bear.
Most of these volunteer organizations are located at some distance from metropolitan areas. Quite often, they are in the areas which have been earmarked by civil-defense officials as the places for people in our metropolitan areas to gather in case of either enemy attack or such natural disasters as tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and the like.
If the central city is knocked out, and its residents flock to the outskirts and beyond, who is going to take care of them? We know that there are substantial civil-defense installations near many of our major cities. But I
can only speak for the Detroit area in stating that the existing facilities aren't able to cope with any type of disaster which would cut off the water supply, or force the evacuations of large segments of our population. This metropolitan center would be forced to draw its water supply from outside its boundaries. There is plenty of water available, but there is a sad lack of pumping facilities to handle a large influx of new residents or to even supply the cooking and drinking needs of those who evacuate their mother city. Most of our really up-to-date fire-fighting and disaster equipment is concentrated in our central cities, the area most vulnerable to enemy attack and the area most likely to be cut off in case of a natural disaster which blocks streets and highways. We are faced with the possibility that some of this equipment would be unable to reach other sections of the city where it is badly needed.
In my opinion, supplying volunteer fire-fighting organizations with surplus equipment would help to solve this problem with the least possible expenditure of Federal funds. The equipment would be far enough away from the scene of a disaster to a central city so that it still would be maneuverable. In many cases, the areas served by volunteer fire-fighting departments would be the natural evacuation areas. The sudden influx of those evacuated into these largely rural areas would mean that the danger of fire would increase.
Water-pumping equipment ordinarily used in fighting fires could be quickly converted into supplying the water needs of a large influx of new residents on a temporary basis.
For these reasons, I urge the Special Subcommittee on Donable Property of the House Committee on Government Operations to report H. R. 10377 favorably. In my opinion, it is in the best interests of our Nation and its people. Mr. FOGARTY. Mr. Chairman, may I say one other word before I leave?
Mr. McCORMACK. Certainly.
Mr. FOGARTY. Because there is something I had on my mind when I came in here.
I want to say publicly that I thank you for the leadership that you have provided in the field of legislation in allowing this surplus property to be donated for educational purposes and for public health purposes.
I do not know of anything that we are doing in Government today that is providing more help for education and public health than the legislation that provided the leadership for the early days of the administration of this act.
Also, I see in the room, Mr. Lund, over here, who I have been listening to for 8 or 10 years on the Appropriations Committee, who has had charge of the Surplus Property Act of the Health, Education, and Welfare Department, and I did want to say that I think he has been doing a splendid job.
I think he can point to the record where he has returned into the Treasury of the United States many millions of dollars over the course of the administration of this program.
I think it has been well handled, and he should be given a great deal of credit for the way that the act has been handled as far as the donation of this property for public health purposes and educational purposes are concerned.
Mr. McCORMACK. Thank you, Congressman Nimtz, and also again, Congressman Fogarty.
I think at this time it might be well that we heard from Mr. Lund and then we will call the other witnesses so you will get an idea as to the position of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and so that we know what their thinking is.
Mr. Lund, will you come forward where we can get chummy?
With the very fine compliment paid you by Congressman Fogarty, you are going to have a lot of difficulty, I can see, because you have got to appear before his committee next year, you know.
Will you give us your full name, Mr. Lund?
STATEMENT OF CHESTER B. LUND, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF FIELD ADMINISTRATION, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, EDUCATION, AND
Mr. LUND. My name is Chester B. Lund. I am Director of the Office of Field Administration for the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.
I have no formal prepared statement. We did state our position, Mr. Chairman, in a letter to you, which probably certain excerpts from would help to clarify our position.
We, as you will recall, last year, had a study committee to try to ascertain what was the best procedure for the general disposition of this property throughout.
Certain recommendations were made; and the Department then, primarily for the reason that civil defense had been added to this listing, thought it advisable to gain further experience in relation to that large program.
One of the problems in considering the total disposition of surplus property is that there are so many items that are in short supply and in long demand. By that, I mean there are not quantities to go around; that it was our feeling that it was more important to serve for the time being, as long as so many needs were unmet, the educational institutions of this country, the health institutions, and civil defense. When the Congress enacted the civil-defense law, it placed a heavy administrative responsibility on us, which required a new procedure, and we were fearful that, in relation to the total responsibility, administratively we could not do a satisfactory job.
We have at all times attempted
Mr. McCORMACK. Is that because of lack of help or what?
Mr. LUND. No; that thing was so large, for one thing, and we had not had the procedure.
It would have been a lack of help; yes, sir, if we had taken the total expansion.
Mr. McCORMACK. I am talking about the fire fighters.
Mr. LUND. The fire fighters? No.
Mr. McCORMACK. Confine it if you will to
Mr. LUND. To the fire fighting?
Mr. McCORMACK. Not necessarily, but we would each bill ought to be considered on its own merits, of course, now.
Mr. LUND. One of the problems as we see it in this program again relates to civil defense. Currently under existing procedures voluntary fire departments may get equipment if they have a training program under the civil defense procedure.
That is a fact generally not known. We have given considerable equipment to volunteer fire departments under that program.
The other problem that we do not have the answer to, however, we are going to undertake to try to get a survey so we know what is available, generally speaking there is a feeling that there is a great deal