JAMESTOWN, NY (WNY News Now) — This year, the City of Jamestown is hiring a dozen new firefighters thanks in part to federal funding. However before the final vote to muster recruits is made, local lawmakers are concerned with what happens when funding runs out.
We had previously reported that the Jamestown Fire Department received a $1.8 million dollar FEMA grant to create a slew of new positions. This is on the heels of four additional hires made with American Rescue Plan Act dollars.
“We have not been at full staff since 2002, and then we’ve rotated station closings since that time,“ explained Fire Chief Matthew Coon. “Having this additional grant funding will allow us to bring in eight additional full time firefighters on board, with the goal of opening all of the fire stations.”
Thinking ahead, some are already worried about potential layoffs when the funding runs out.
“I don’t want to move forward three years from now and then when we come back and say, well, we have to lay firefighters off, and people act like it was smoke and mirrors going on and we weren’t forthright by telling people that was a possibility,” stated Councilman Jeff Russell.
Another concern is the price of training recruits, as current allocations only cover salary costs.
“It would be very difficult for the fire academy to accommodate a large number of students just from one particular municipality, “said Chief Coon. “Each municipality in New York State competes for positions there, and the class sizes are restricted.”
As a potential fix, the Fire Chief would like to create an in house academy.
“So to put it into rough numbers, it costs about $4,000 dollars per recruit to send them out to the fire academy,“ explained Chief Coon. “So that gives us a budget of about $51,000 dollars. So that savings if you will, from having them to go to training, it certainly would enable a program to take place here and give us some leeway to do that.”
With the influx of fire personnel in the City of Jamestown, the need for a second ambulance is clear to many within city hall as well. Over the next few months it’s expected that local lawmakers will dip into the remaining American Rescue Plan Act dollars to approve the purchase of ambulance two.