Calling all firefighters: Scottsdale receives grant dollars to hire 6 new employees

Scottsdale fire fighters put themselves in harm’s way to protect the residents of Scottsdale. (Photo courtesy of the Scottsdale Fire Department)

The Scottsdale Fire Department will be expanding its full-time employee pool by six firefighter positions, after receiving a grant to fund their salaries and benefits.

Scottsdale City Council has approved a resolution authorizing the acceptance of a $1.2 million grant for fiscal year 2018-19 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The grant is for the addition of six new, full-time firefighter positions, according to a city staff report, and requires the municipality to match the grant by 25 percent in the first two years, and match it by 65 percent in year three.

Fire Chief Tom Shannon

Following an annual analysis to calculate the number of field positions needed to protect the city, staff has determined the need for 248 sworn positions to be assigned to 56-hour emergency operations.

Twelve new firefighters were needed to achieve the 248 positions and to reduce reliance on overtime, the city staff report says. During fiscal year 2017-18, six positions were approved — increasing the firefighters from 236 to 242 sworn positions. SFD then applied for FEMA’s Staffing For Adequate Emergency Response — or SAFER — grant in April to request the additional funding needed for the remaining six positions.

The requested $1.285,056 was granted on Sept. 7.

“Having the calculated number of staff assigned to 56-hour operations prepares the department for the impending retirement, attrition impacts, and benefit utilization in the coming years,” the city staff report states. “Members of all ranks and disciplines will be retiring in mass over a relatively short number of years, requiring the department to have experienced, knowledgeable and highly trained personnel to assume leadership and specialty positions.”

Hiring is planned to occur in late December, for a 16-week recruit academy that begins in early January 2019. City staff estimates the new firefighters would complete the academy training in April 2019, resulting in a decreased overtime need for the remaining three months of the fiscal year.

The General Fund overtime cost avoidance is estimated at $163,000 in fiscal year 2018-19, averaging approximately $650,000 for a full year or $1.8 million for the life of the grant. With the overtime avoidance, city staff says it should provide sufficient budget authority for the 25 percent match requirement of $57,633 in fiscal year 2018-19, and the additional expenses that will be incurred with hiring new firefighters.

Additional expenses of $117,828 will include the cost to equip and train the new employees, and are expenses that wouldn’t be eligible for reimbursement in the grant monies.

Expenses not eligible for grant monies, and would require use of General Fund dollars, includes:

  • Recruit training officers: backfill overtime;
  • Personal protective equipment, uniforms and medical exams; and
  • Regional academy fees.

Northeast Valley News Services Editor Melissa Rosequist can be e-mailed at mrosequist@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/mrosequist_.

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