3 Va. counties receive $4M in grants for new firefighters

County officials will hire 26 firefighters to serve the areas

By Jeff Branscome
The Free Lance-Star

SPOTSYLVANIA COUNTY, Va. — Spotsylvania, Stafford and King George counties are set to receive a total of nearly $4 million in federal grants to hire additional firefighters.

The Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to accept a $1.35 million “SAFER” grant that would add nine firefighters to the payroll. The grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency would cover the salaries and benefits of those positions for two years starting in late November.

Stafford and King George supervisors recently voted to accept SAFER grants of about $2.3 million and $326,000, respectively. King George’s grant will fund one additional firefighter for four years while Stafford’s grant covers the salaries and benefits of 16 new firefighters for two years.

But the counties will have to pay for training, equipment and other costs.

And once the grant expires, local tax dollars must cover the firefighters’ salaries and benefits—though the counties have the option of cutting the positions.

In Spotsylvania, the grant amounts to about a penny on the real-estate tax rate. Supervisor Paul Trampe said he supports the grant because “we need the firefighters, not because it’s just money that’s available.”

The additional firefighters would reduce overtime by filling staff shortages countywide, said Spotsylvania Deputy Chief of Support Services Jay Cullinan.

Earlier this year, volunteer firefighters with Chancellor Volunteer Fire and Rescue stopped staffing a station on Gordon Road. Volunteers had previously worked overnight shifts, and career firefighters manned the station during the day.

If supervisors accept the grant, the county could also staff a second ambulance during weekdays at its station off Salem Church Road, Cullinan said. Spotsylvania firefighters are cross-trained as medics.

Lastly, the additional firefighters would enable the county to promote existing firefighters/medics to three EMS supervisor positions, which assist advanced life support providers and respond to emergencies such as cardiac arrests and fires.

Spotsylvania currently has three EMS supervisors who must respond to incidents countywide. With the added positions, the supervisors could be assigned to different parts of the 413-square-mile county, fire and rescue officials wrote in a county report.

Spotsylvania would pay an estimated $249,228 over the two-year grant period to train the new firefighters, pay them overtime and buy equipment, among other costs. This year, the county budget also includes $545,000 for nine firefighters who were previously funded through a grant.

The county has added dozens of firefighters in recent years, and recently opened two new fire and rescue stations.

In Stafford, the 16 additional firefighters will be placed at stations on Sebring Drive, Shelton Shop Road, Washington Drive and Kellogg Mill Road, according to a county report. They would start recruit school in January.

Stafford supervisors approved a “public safety staffing plan” last year that calls for more than 50 additional positions in the Fire and Rescue Department. The county has made a lot of progress toward that goal.

This fiscal year’s budget includes eighteen new firefighter and EMT positions, allowing Stafford to have a career firefighter at every station for the first time. Those positions do not include the grant-funded firefighters.

Copyright 2016 The Free Lance-Star

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