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Grant would pay for firefighters, but future building an issue

By Staff
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
Hartselle is applying for a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant for the purpose of hiring four new firefighters. The application was submitted to federal authorities Aug. 31.
Although the city council voted 3-0 to proceed with the application process at its Aug. 25 meeting, Councilman Bill Drake expressed reservations and said he could not commit to the implementation of the grant if it is approved. He cast a yes vote after City Attorney Larry Madison said the application for the grant does not commit the city to its terms.
"I know we're shorthanded in the fire department and need more firefighters but I don't think the city can afford to spend the $444,055 it will take to implement the grant over a five-year period," Drake said. "After that, the city will be picking up the entire cost of their salaries to the tune of over $161,000 a year.
"Sometimes these gifts (grants) are not what they appear to be. We could possibly hire one or two new firefighters and go from there."
City Attorney Larry Madison said a resolution he prepared authorizing Mayor Dwight Tankersley to submit the grant application does not commit the city to accept the grant even if it's approved. Plus, he cautioned the governing body to look carefully at what is involved in the out years in terms of commitment if the grant should be implemented.
The terms of the grant program is that the city would provide a local match of $16,151 the first year, $33,271 the second year, $87,025 the third year, $125,827 the fourth year and $181,781 the fifth year.
In a preceding budget review work session, Fire Chief Steve Shelton requested four additional firefighters.
He said they are needed to move the city closer to operational standards established by the National Firefighters Association.
He said the national standard is for each on-call fire truck to be manned by four firefighters. Currently, the city's two fire stations are staffed by two and three personnel per day, and both stations have only four firefighters on duty 90 percent of the time.