Archive for Thursday, June 23, 2005

First full-time firefighter could be on way

June 23, 2005

A full-time, paid firemen may just be in the future of what has always been the Baldwin City Volunteer Fire Department. The time and -- possibly more important -- the grant money for it are here.

Fire Chief Allen Craig told the Baldwin City Council at Monday night's meeting that it's getting harder to attract volunteer firemen, especially those that can be on call during the work week. After three long-time volunteers retired recently, taking 104 years worth of fire-fighting experience with them, the department is in need of new bodies.

"Volunteers aren't knocking on the door," said Craig. "We don't have enough people during the day. We're looking for an 8-5 person, Monday through Friday."

Craig told the council about a grant that would be worth $100,000 over a five-year period from Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER). The purpose of the group is to fund fire departments for proper staffing. Grants are for two objectives -- hiring firefighters and recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters -- which both fit Baldwin's needs.

City Administrator Jeff Dingman asked for council approval to apply for the grant because if it's awarded, the city would be responsible for more funding each year during the five years. For the first year, the grant would pay $36,000 and the city's share would be $8,100. The next year, the grant pays $32,000 and the city $13,864. In the year 2010, the city would be responsible for the entire cost, which is projected to be $51,590.70.

"I've always thought it was just a matter of time before full-time fire fighters are needed," said Council Member Tony Brown.

The council voted 4-0 to apply for the grant, which is due by June 28. Council Member Doyle Jardon was absent.

"It's a start," Craig said of the possibility of the grant.

But, he had also told the council that competition is fierce. There is $65 million available nationally which funds each approved place the $100,000.

"It will be tough," Craig said. "Only 40 to 60 departments have finished the application."

Volunteers are still needed for the department, which is continuing to function despite the recent loss of several fire fighters to retirement and other reasons. And, there's no guarantee that the grant will be awarded for the city's first paid firefighter.

Dingman said the job description for the full-time position is still being worked on, but will include recruitment and retention efforts for volunteers.

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