Hobart will use federal grant to hire six more firefighters
BY KAREN CAFFARINI Post-Tribune correspondent March 7, 2014 5:00PM
Updated: April 9, 2014 6:14AM
HOBART — The city’s long quest to find the money needed to hire additional firefighters was finally realized this week in the form of an $832,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
What could be the largest grant the city has ever received will pay the salaries, benefits and any other costs for six additional firefighters for two years, Mayor Brian Snedecor said during a press conference at Fire Station 1 on Friday afternoon.
Firefighters, city officials, U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky and Justin Mount, regional director for U.S. Sen. Joseph Donnelly, looked on as Snedecor announced the grant.
If any new hire is a military veteran, the grant will pay their salary and benefits for three years, said Robert Scott, EMS director for the fire department and the person who did all the work to apply for the SAFER grant; that stands Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response.
Scott said the department has 45 full-time firefighters. Two are leaving, while three more are being brought on board. With the extra six the department will have 52 firefighters, a larger force than anyone can remember.
“I don’t know when the last time was that we had 52 firefighters,” Scott said.
“This is almost like a blessing from heaven,” said Snedecor, who said the city has been looking for ways the address the manpower shortage on the fire department for years while facing budget problems.
When that two years of money runs out, Snedecor said, he intends to use strategic budgeting and planning to continue to pay the costs of the additional firefighters.
Scott said one of the grant’s requirements is that the wheels have to be set in motion for hiring the six firefighters within 90 days. He said the department has an existing hiring list to work from. He didn’t know how many people are on the list.
Thomas Castle, president of Professional Firefighters Local 1641, said he was “crazy excited” about the grant.
“This was the biggest morale booster we could have gotten. It’s epic,” Castle said.
Councilman Pete Mendez, D-2nd, who attended the announcement, said he’d been trying for five years to get three more firefighters.
“And now we get this grant. It’s just wonderful,” Mendez said.
Visclosky called the grant an investment in the quality of life, safety and benefit for the community.
“This grant is part of the budget being fought in Washington. It’s bringing some hard-earned federal tax dollars back to Hobart, Indiana,” Visclosky said.
Mount said with the grant, more firefighters will be able to answer emergency calls.
Asked if the additional manpower will mean Fire Station 2 will again be opened on a full-time basis, Snedecor said the funding allows the city to review the fire station situation in greater detail.
He said the ultimate goal is to have either four stations or three with a new, larger station with more equipment and staffing to be built on the north side of the city.