JFD To Hire More Firefighters
More firefighters will be added to the roles of the Jamestown Fire Department, thanks in part to a federal grant the city will receive.
During a special meeting session of Jamestown City Council in May, various issues were brought up about the potential hiring of additional firefighters and the impact it could have on the department if the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and its Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant Program was awarded to the city.
The grant was formally approved earlier this week after an outside attorney agreed that an agreement between the city and the union representing its firefighters wouldn’t result in the city possibly paying more under an impact arbitration award given by a state arbitration panel in 2002.
Now that the outside attorney has given approval, the city can accept the SAFER grant and begin the hiring process for the eight additional firefighters.
“We have four stations and at a minimum we run with three personnel per apparatus,” said Matthrew Coon, Jamestown fire chief. “That would put 12 on a shift; if we don’t have 12 on a shift then that station is closed. We will not run a fire apparatus without the minimum of three personnel.”
Accepting the SAFER grant brings the department’s staffing from 54 up to 62 firefighters, a number that city officials hope allows the city to better respond to EMS calls when ALSTAR Ambulance is out of service.
There are still questions what happens when the SAFER grant runs out — which is what precipitated negotiations over the impact arbitration award. The impact arbitration began when former Mayor Sam Teresi laid off firefighters early in his first term because the city had to cut roughly a million dollars of spending from the budget. The firefighters’ union filed the impact arbitration claim, arguing the city should be forced to pay remaining firefighters more money in recognition of the fact they will do more work with fewer firefighters on duty. The arbitrator in the case agreed with the firefighters, with the city paying into a fund each day the department’s manpower falls below a certain level. That money is then disbursed to the firefighters.
The SAFER grant will expire in three years. City officials will have until 2026 to either receive another federal grant to help pay for the positions created this year or choose not to replace firefighters when the grant runs out and bring staffing levels back down to pre-2023 levels.