Grant Could Help Add 3 Firefighter Positions

Smithfield Fire Chief John Blanton appears before the Smithfield Town Council on January 3rd. Blanton received permission to apply for a federal grant that could add 3 firefighting positions to the department in 2018. Photo

The Smithfield Fire Department hopes to hire three new firefighters in 2018 if they receive a federal grant. Fire Chief John Blanton has received approval from town council members to apply for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Personnel (AFG SAFER Grant).

Chief Blanton is seeking three full-time firefighter positions. The grant is for a three year period with two years at 75 percent and the third year at 35 percent funding for the positions.

The cost to the Town the first and second year is $32,756.25 each year and the third year $85,16625.  The grant does not provide funding for turnout gear which will cost $3,500 per firefighter or a total of $10,500.

If approved, the Town’s first year financial impact would be $43,256.25. The second year $32,756.25 and the third year $85,166.25.   Blanton said the potential savings to the Town if they receive the grant would be $242,396.25.

“The additional personnel are important to the Fire Department’s increased call volume and the need of the professional delivery of our service and safety to our citizens of the Town,” Chief Blanton stated.

It will take 8-12 months before the fire department learns if they will receive the grant dollars. If approved, Chief Blanton said it would increase staffing to 5 full time firefighters per shift. The department added 3 positions in July 2016.

Expressing concerns about the rising costs of fire protection, Mayor Pro Tem Emery Ashley said, “My fear is going to be we price ourselves out of the business and the county take over.”

Councilman Travis Scott made the motion to apply for the grant. It was seconded by Councilman John Dunn. The council voted unanimously to seek the AFG SAFER grant.