Johnson City Looks To Add More Firefighters

By WBNG News

July 22, 2010 Updated Nov 18, 2009 at 12:10 AM EDT

Johnson City is looking to use federal funding to restore some paid firefighter positions and add volunteers to the Department's ranks.

But as Action News Reporter Leigh Dana tells us, the latter could cause the village to lose the grant entirely.

Last summer, 6 firefighter positions were casualties of Johnson City budget cuts.

Leaving the force stranded without a net.

"Right now, our staffing levels are low. And to bring in additional people is a benefit to the taxpayer," says Village Fire Chief Stephen Hrustich.

Which is why the Village is applying for a $1.2 million dollar grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

It would restore those positions, and keep them on staff for 2 years.

Leaders also want to use the grant to help recruit and train volunteers.

"I believe we need to start blending volunteers in with our career firefighters. Because as we reduce paid staff, we got to have a way to augment that and provide an adequate response."

But there's a chance the village could lose out on that federal funding.

JC Fire Union President Martin Meaney, says the language in the grant won't permit the village to use the money to gain volunteers.

"Johnson City, by being virtue of being a career fire department cannot utilize the Safer grant to bring in volunteer firefighters. The grant is very specific is very specific in what you can and cannot apply for," says Meaney.

Many tax payers hope the village fills out the application with caution, as asking for both could cost them the entire award.

"There really is no other way. I mean that's what communities across New York State have been doing for years," says Hannon.

Mayor Hannon says there are already departments utilizing volunteers to augment their fire forces in the Rochester and Syracuse areas.

In Johnson City, Leigh Dana, WBNG TV Action News.

Hannon says if the village is not approved for the grant, it will still look to bring on volunteers.

The application must be submitted by December 18th.

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