Firefighter Grant Could Save Turlock $270k

David Fransen|

Turlock could save $270,000 from this year's budget while reducing the overtime workload for firefighters, if approved for a federal grant.

When Turlock City Councilmembers approved the 2013-2014 budget, all agreed that the city could not bare the cost of the three additional firefighters needed to fully staff the city's fire stations. Instead, the council approved $270,000 needed to pay for existing firefighters to cover the shifts via overtime.

“We would, essentially, eliminate all of the overtime you've allocated,” said Turlock Fire Chief Tim Lohman.

That all could end, should the Federal Emergency Management Agency approve Turlock's application for the Staffing of Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant. The Turlock City Council unanimously approved applying for the grant on Tuesday.

The three extra firefighters would bring Turlock back to full staffing, thanks to an extra $589,685 in grant funding. That money would pay the salary and benefits of three new firefighters for two years.

In 2005, prior to the economic collapse, the Turlock City Council committed to employing 48 line personnel in the fire department. The city currently has 45 firefighters.

Turlock's fire department was last at full staffing in 2012, before a 2010 SAFER grant expired.

“This would put us back to where we were previous to the end of the last SAFER grant,” Lohman said.

Turlock would incur some costs related to hiring – about $30,000. And Turlock must maintain its current staffing levels throughout the SAFER grant to remain eligible for the funding, though the city would not be obligated to hire the firefighters after the two grant-funded years. Lohnman noted, however, that previous SAFER grant hires were retained through the retirement of other employees.

Roughly 2,500 fire departments are expected to apply for the grant, with 300 grants to be awarded. Winners of the $321 million available will be selected starting Nov. 1, though that could be delayed due to the ongoing government shutdown.

On Tuesday, the Turlock City Council also:
• Appointed Mayor John Lazar to serve on the Mayor's Economic Development Task Force. Councilwoman Amy Bublak was appointed as an alternate member.
• Continued with the process to abandon a section of Dianna Drive, near Fulkerth Road. The abandonment will allow Turlock to realign Dianne Drive to meet Auto Mall Drive at Fulkerth Road, and will make room for a future expansion of the Highway 99/Fulkerth Road interchange.

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