LCRA, Bandera Electric Cooperative award $44,678 grant for new radios for Utopia VFD

LCRA and Bandera Electric Cooperative representatives present a $44,678 grant to the Utopia Volunteer Fire Department for new handheld radios. The grant is part of LCRA’s Community Development Partnership Program. Pictured, from left to right, are: Lauren Murley, BEC marketing specialist; Bruce Forey, BEC director of communication and marketing; Lori A. Berger, LCRA Board member; Dick Earnest, BEC director; Ashley Calk, firefighter; Daniel Gring, Utopia VFD captain; Katherine Calk, firefighter; Kevin Wise, Utopia VFD lieutenant; and James O’Bryant, Utopia VFD fire chief.

The Utopia Volunteer Fire Department soon will purchase much-needed handheld radios to enable firefighters to communicate better with dispatchers and other first responders during emergencies, thanks to a $44,678 community development grant from the Lower Colorado River Authority and Bandera Electric Cooperative.

The grant, along with $11,170 in local matching funds, will allow the department to replace its outdated radios with 12 new state-of-the-art radios that are fully functional even in rugged, remote areas of the Hill Country. The current batch of handheld radios are no longer manufactured and do not operate well across all channels, frequencies and modes.

“While we have a radio system, these new radios will give us capabilities we haven’t had before,” said Utopia VFD Fire Chief James O’Bryant. “Providing the best possible portable communication is a necessity when lives of the general public and our firefighters are hanging in the balance. We’re extremely excited and appreciative to receive this grant.”

O’Bryant said the new radios will help the department by providing better communication from accident scenes and when coordinating mutual aid with surrounding departments. In addition to increased functionality, the new radios are completely waterproof and will have GPS capabilities that will allow central command to track crews.

“Having the GPS feature will enhance our safety and effectiveness,” O’Bryant said. “We assist in covering about 450 very rural square miles and parts of four counties.”

Utopia VFD serves about 1,750 residents in its emergency service district, and a significant part-time and tourist population visiting Garner State Park and Lost Maples State Natural Area. Many of the department’s calls are to assist with rescues or fire suppression in extremely rough, isolated terrain.

The community grant is one of a number of grants recently awarded through LCRA’s Community Development Partnership Program. The program provides economic development and community assistance grants to cities, counties, volunteer fire departments, regional development councils and other nonprofit organizations in LCRA’s wholesale electric and water service areas. The program is part of LCRA’s effort to give back to the communities it serves. Bandera Electric Cooperative is one of LCRA’s wholesale electric customers and a partner in the grant program.

Applications for the next round of grants are due Jan. 31. More information is available at

About LCRA
​The Lower Colorado River Authority serves customers and communities throughout Texas by managing the lower Colorado River; generating and transmitting electric power; ensuring a clean, reliable water supply; and offering access to nature at more than 40​ parks, recreation areas and river access sites along the Texas Colorado River, from the Hill Country to the Gulf Coast. LCRA and its employees are committed to enhancing the lives of Texans through water stewardship, energy and community services. LCRA was created by the Texas Legislature in 1934. For more information, visit

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Source: LCRA Business News

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