Excerpts from the news-gazette.com:
A $1.3 million Department of Homeland Security grant, awarded to the fire department last year, was formally enacted this week to hire six new firefighters.
The grant, called Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, will last for two years. City staff and the city council are now looking into their options for when the grant expires.
“We’re going to study this for two years to come up with a continuity plan,” said Fire Chief Gary Ludwig. “We want to figure out how we (keep the six firefighters) in the future without reducing city services.”
A proposition for the study, also being called a stainability plan, will have its first appearance at next Tuesday’s city council meeting. Ludwig said he’s not opposed to re-applying for the grant after it ends but he’s unsure if it will be made available again.
Champaign Budget Officer Molly Talkington said the study’s goal will be to “maintain the increased staffing level for Ladder 164 on a recurring basis after the grant expires.” Ladder 164 is located at fire station four on W. John street.
The increased staffing level at hand is 28 firefighters instead of 27. Whenever the station is short-staffed, which Ludwig said happens almost daily, firefighters are called back on mandatory overtime.
Over the past several years, that overtime has cost the department an additional $300,000 at minimum.
“Three years of data reflects that 3.25 – 4.00 firefighters are off each day for leave other than vacation or Kelly Days,” according to the report.
“A Kelly day is when each firefighter is given an average of 8.7 days off per fiscal year to compensate for working a 56-hour work week when a firefighter’s normal work week is 52 hours.”
In addition, Ladder 164 is currently staffed with two firefighters, which the report says causes safety concerns because the ladder can’t be fully operational.