By Katie Dahlstrom
Herald Staff Writer
This time last year, the Clinton Fire Department was pleading for the public’s help in an effort to keep firefighter positions that were on the chopping block during the city’s budget process.
Those positions were ultimately spared. This year, presenting to the Clinton City Council, Fire Chief Mike Brown not only has the positions that were previously in danger of being cut, but a new one thanks to a federal grant.
The fire department received a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant for more than $600,000, but was unable to accept most of the funds.
When the grant was originally applied for the fire department was slated to lose six positions due to budget shortfalls. However, in the budgeting process, five of those positions were restored, bringing the staffing level back up to 44.
Instead, the department accepted $110,000, which pays for the benefits and wages of an additional firefighter and allowed the department to add a safety director who aids the entire city.
The SAFER grant funds account for most of the fire operations revenue, Brown explained to City Council members on Monday.
During his budget presentation Brown also stated that overtime has been reduced by $20,000, a restriction he said staff will diligently work to stay within.
Of the department’s capital requests for next year, Brown said self-contained breathing apparatus replacement is a top priority. The department has applied for a $264,915 grant that would require a $29,435 local match.
“We have not heard anything yet, which is really good news. We’re hoping that that will go through...If we don’t get that, that will be our priority for grant writing for this next cycle,” Brown said. “We’ve got about a year and a half left on the 15 year life-cycle on those air packs and those are our lifeline to working in a hazardous environment.”
Other capital improvements for the department include floor replacement in Central Fire Station, turnout gear replacement and Lyons station’s central air.
A request for a new ambulance will not be filled, but Brown said the replacement could wait until next year.