Franklin gets $900,000 to hire nine firefightersPublished 9:56am Wednesday, January 16, 2013
BY ANDREW FAISON/CONTRIBUTING WRITER
FRANKLIN—The Franklin Fire and Rescue Department will hire nine firefighters after City Council on Monday voted unanimously to accept a $902,000 federal grant.
Each position is estimated to cost a total of $50,000 including pay and benefits, and will give the department 24 employees. Hiring is expected to begin in early March.
Franklin Mayor Raystine Johnson-Ashburn had reservations about accepting the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grant because the funding will run out in two years.
“I am in no way against this grant,” said Johnson-Ashburn. “There is definitely a need for trained firefighters. My concern is that our budget has to support these employees after the grant’s two-year period.”
Franklin City Manager Randy Martin said the cost of the additional staff will offset the overtime costs under current staffing levels. Over an extended period of time, overtime adds up to an additional firefighter.
“In the department we have quite a bit of overtime because of the limited staffing,” Martin said. “You will see a great reduction in our overtime costs and that will reduce the overall budget.”
Franklin Chief Vince Holt said the grant was looked into after local funding wasn’t available for the positions. The increase in staffing was needed to respond to medical emergencies and fires.
“Very commonly we have the majority of our shift out on calls for ambulance service and none in reserve for a fire call,” Holt said.
Due to some emergency response protocols, the department sometimes has to transport patients to Obici Hospital and as far away as Norfolk Sentara.
“We want to hire individuals that are firefighter and emergency medical technicians because we want our team cross-trained so they can handle any job,” Holt said.
Franklin has 15 firefighters, after recently hiring three in January, and will be able to fully staff three shifts with the additional nine.
“I commend the department for the load that (they) have undertaken,” said Councilman Greg McLemore. “I am impressed with the amount of calls (they) respond to daily.”
Holt said he currently has four responders for two ambulances.
“This currently leaves only one staff member available for response on a fire engine, meaning they have to wait until volunteers arrive,” Holt said. “Volunteers are still very much needed in addition to our career staff.”
The hiring of extra staff also will allow the department to create a lieutenant position for each shift for career advancement. The position will have requirements including fire officer certifications.
“We have been lucky to not have so much in the way of turnover over the years,” he said. “Those that have left said the main reason they leave is the lack of career advancement.”
Holt said he would like to promote from within.
Three other localities in the state, including Lynchburg, Yorktown, and Hampton, were awarded the grant.
“We are definitely in exclusive company,” Martin said. “Not only in our state but in the nation.”
For information on the jobs, call the city’s personnel department at 562-8508.