For Immediate Release
SAFER Grant to Fund 13 Firefighter Positions
The Springfield Fire Department has been awarded more than $1.3 million in a federal SAFER grant to hire 13 firefighters for a two-year period.
Springfield received the 8th highest grant award in the nation and was one of only three cities in Missouri to compete successfully in the first round of the grant program administered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The SAFER Grants, or Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, is a program under the Department of Homeland Security to help professional and volunteer fire departments increase the number of trained, frontline firefighters in their communities.
The grant award of $1,306,295 will fully fund 13 firefighter positions for a two-year period with no local matching funds required.
The Springfield Fire Department currently has 17 frozen firefighter positions in an authorized uniformed force of 212. The department is in the process of testing applicants for a new training academy to begin in June, with a second academy planned for September. The City Council committed to backfilling frozen positions last fall if the November sales tax was approved to address the shortfall in the police-fire pension fund.
The City planned to fund the new positions using General Fund revenue. Sales-tax revenue, however, is expected to fall below budget by the end of June, so budget projections for FY11 will be lower than anticipated. Using the SAFER grant to fund the new firefighter positions will reduce the impact on the General Fund.
“This will allow us to uphold the commitment to voters to get our firefighter staffing up to full strength as soon as possible, while also reducing the pressure on the General Fund as the economy recovers more slowly than we’d like to see,” City Manager Greg Burris said. “We also have committed to re-hiring frozen police officer positions, which also are supported by the General Fund. This is an extremely positive step in boosting Springfield’s public-safety services.”
Fire Chief David Hall credited Assistant Chief Dave Pennington for his work on the grant application. While the grant covers two years of pay and benefits for the 13 positions with no requirement to maintain the staffing after that, Hall said he fully intends that these 13 positions will be long-term employees.
“We make a considerable investment in training and experience when we hire new firefighters,” he said. “We are not looking at this as a short-term solution, but more of a bridge to help us increase our staffing in the near term and then take on the funding responsibility after the two-year period.
“We are very appreciative for this FEMA award, which recognizes the considerable strain we have been going through in trying to keep stations open and provide the highest possible level of service for our community,” Hall said.
The City Council will consider a bill to accept the grant at its April 5 meeting.
The link to the list of grants awarded in this round of SAFER funding is at: www.firegrantsupport.com/content/html/safer/Awards09.aspx
For more information, contact: Fire Chief David Hall, 864-1507; or Assistant Chief for Operations David Pennington, 864-1530.