By Rikki King Herald Writer
The firefighters’ wages and benefits will be funded through a federal grant.
The $634,468 grant will pay for the firefighters for two years, Assistant Fire Chief Greg Macke said. The new hires are set to start later this month.
“It’s exciting news for us,” Macke said.
The city is not required to keep the new firefighters on the payroll once the emergency responders staffing grant runs out, according to an April 27 memo from the mayor and the finance director to the City Council. The grant, which is from the Department of Homeland Security, also says the city cannot lay off firefighters during the next two years. If it does, the city would have to apply for a hardship waiver or repay any spent grant money.
“Based on preliminary calculations, it may be difficult for LFD to retain these employees beyond 2013,” the memo says.
The people who have been offered jobs with the fire department understand the circumstances, Macke said.
They know the department is waiting on the economy to improve and that they aren’t guaranteed a job in two years, he said. The hope, however, is that they’ll be able to stay.
“We’re keeping our fingers crossed, and we’re hoping for an improvement in the economy,” Macke said.
The new firefighters will fill open vacancies at the department, which has seen its staff shrink because of retirements and budget cuts, Macke said. The department hasn’t been able to fill the positions of those who have left the department for one reason or another.
The department is authorized to have 51 full-time firefighters and was down to 43 before the grant, he said.
“We were down in our numbers, so this grant was given to us knowing that we were short on bodies,” he said.
The new crew members likely will work at Fire Station 15, at the intersection of 44th Avenue W. and 188th Street SW. The busy station is good experience for beginners learning the ropes, Macke said.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; firstname.lastname@example.org