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Grant means keeping same number of city firefighters
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The city’s legal attorney has reviewed the SAFER Grant obtained by McMinnville Fire Department and says officials would be required to maintain the fire department staff at its current level in accepting the grant.
A discussion is scheduled for Tuesday night.
City attorney Tim Pirtle says if the city accepts the grant, it would be committing to maintain its current level of staffing within the Fire Department for the two-year duration of the grant, unless the city applied for and is granted a waiver of this requirement based on economic hardship resulting in reductions in safety staffing, not limited to the Fire Department.
Included in a letter from Pirtle, the regional fire program specialist provided the following information:
• Departments cannot lay off any firefighters during the period of performance. Laying off firefighters during the two-year period of performance will result in the termination of the grant.
• There is an opportunity for your department to submit a waiver for any vacated positions that have been lost due to documentable economic hardship.
• Grantees must maintain their staffing at the level that existed at the time of award, as well as the SAFER-funded staffing for the two-year period of performance unless the grantee has been afforded a waiver of this requirement.
The SAFER grant (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) is for $182,866 and given through FEMA. If accepted, the grant could be used to fund the pay/ benefits of two firefighters for two years.
By the findings of the attorney, this grant is not for three years, which was originally believed. The city would not be required to pay an additional year after the two-year period because this grant is for rehiring to fill two positions that already existed.
However, in accepting the grant, officials would be required to maintain the number of firefighters it currently has for a minimum of two years. With the two hired with the grant, the department would have 30 employees.
Officials received the letter during their board meeting April 26. While they did not discuss its contents at that time, they did hear from one concerned citizen.
“I just want you to know I am for the firefighters 100 percent,” said Billie Jo Hobbs. “I know I have been saved by the first-responders and firemen.”
Hobbs says there was a fire at the end of her street and McMinnville firefighters fought the blaze from 3 to 9 a.m. She attributes their determination and quick response in keeping the fire from spreading.
“I do not want Station 2 closed,” she added. “There are too many apartments in that area. When lives are lost, it will be on your shoulders.”
Officials will be discussing the SAFER grant Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. during a Safety Committee meeting.