The Madison City Commission on Monday approved a grant application that was presented by the city fire department which seeks part of the money needed to purchase new fire helmets for Madison's volunteer firefighters.

The Madison Fire Department filled out a donation application form that requested a grant of $7,000 from the Customers' Trust, a Sioux Valley Energy program, and the firefighters requested the mayor's signature to complete the paperwork.

According to Fire Chief Randy Minnaert, the fire department wants to match the $7,000 that it could receive from the Sioux Valley Energy program with $7,046.55 from the fire department's fire safety fund to purchase a new helmet for every volunteer firefighter.

Heiman Fire Equipment had provided a work order for the helmets which showed the firefighting equipment amounting to $14,046.55. The work order from the Ashton, Iowa, company provided cost quotes for 21 fire helmets with face shields ($7,518), eight fire helmets without face shields ($2,064), 29 identification badges for the helmets ($2,028.55) and 29 helmet lights ($2,436).

Minnaert and Kelly Dybdahl, a volunteer firefighter, filled out the grant application form. Dybdahl is employed as the customer relations manager at Heartland Consumers Power District. In the application, they noted that the Madison Fire Department provides fire protection to 10 of the 16 townships in Lake County, an area of about 350 square miles. Minnaert and Dybdahl pointed out that the fire helmets are an important piece of each firefighter's personal protective gear.

The Customers' Trust managed by Sioux Valley Energy is funded by the electric cooperative's Operation Round Up program. Since 2000, members and employees have awarded more than $1.8 million to programs throughout SVE's service territory.

Funding for the program is provided by participating cooperative members who agree to have their electric bills rounded up to the next highest dollar. The additional money is collected for Operation Round Up. Many Sioux Valley Energy employees also add to the funding by deducting a small amount from their paychecks. About 75% of SVE members and employees participate in the program.

Operation Round Up contributions are primarily spent in the local area served by the electric cooperative, providing money for charitable and educational purposes and also emergency energy assistance.

The trust's managers follow funding-priority categories that include community service, economic development, education and youth programs, environment programs, emergency energy assistance and disaster relief. The community-service category includes programs, projects and organizations that contribute to a community's overall quality of life, emphasizing public safety, health care, self-sufficiency and basic human needs.

The contributions from the Customers' Trust are generally distributed to nonprofit organizations that are granted tax-exempt status as 501(c)(3) entities.