JCFD: Federal Funding Boosts Staffing

By Brandi Bailey

October 4, 2012 Updated Oct 4, 2012 at 6:24 PM EDT

Johnson City, NY (WBNG Binghamton) The Johnson City Fire Department has been running on minimum staffing for the past few years, forcing many to work overtime. Federal Grant money could ease some of that burden.

The nearly $1.5 million grant was given through the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response or SAFER.

It will allow the JC Fire Department to hire six additional firefighters to beef up coverage for two years in the Village.

"What this is going to do is put more firefighters on the front line if there is a fire," said Village of Johnson City Mayor Greg Deemie.

"With six people we should be able to go to seven and eight man groups. Two people off takes you back down to six and five," said Acting Fire Chief, Dave Nugent.

This allows the department to use minimal overtime, and stay within the mandatory minimum of four firefighters per shift.

"We're currently down 40 percent from where we were in 2008 as far as man power, so 40 percent or 16 fire fighters is a large number," said village trustee, Bruce King.

The federal grant will cover the salaries and benefits of the six new hires for two years.

The community may also notice that the funding will help man the South Side Station.

"Right now it's not that way. When we only have four firefighters, they'll only work at the Northside Station so Southside is closed," said King.

The station is expected to be operated at least three days a week.

"First we'll call back the firefighters that were laid off to see if any of them want to return, If not we'll go to the civil service test," said King.

After the SAFER grant runs out, it will be up to the village to decide whether or not they can afford to keep all six firefighters.

"It's our goal to keep as many as we can after the two years is up," said Deemie.

Village officials say by that time,there could be room for retirement incentives, allowing them to keep more the new hires.

The village is still waiting to hear when the funds will become available.