City to hire 15 new firefighters

The Gallatin Fire Department plans to hire 15 new firefighters with the help of a recently awarded $1.5 million federal grant. JOSH CROSS

Gallatin’s new fire station on Nichols Lane will be fully staffed when it opens next year thanks to a $1.5 million federal grant that will allow the city to hire 15 new firefighters.

The Gallatin Fire Department was notified that it had been awarded the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant Friday by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), according to Fire Chief Victor Williams.

The funding will be used to pay 75 percent of the salary and benefits costs for the new firefighters during the first two years of the grant followed by 35 percent in the third and final year.

“This grant is extremely important because it allows us to grow and expand our resources as the city grows and expands,” Williams said. “It’s going to help us with our response, it’s going to help us with our service delivery once we get there and it’s definitely going to increase the safety of all of our residents.”

Gallatin’s portion of the new firefighters’ salaries and benefits will be $204,016 during the first year followed by $314,551 in the second year and $664,138 in the final year, according to Williams. The city will pay the full amount starting in the fourth year.

City leaders have already set aside money for the first year in the current fiscal year’s budget, according to Mayor Paige Brown.

“We’ll be fine for next year and we’ve got three years to get up to the full staffing cost,” Brown added. “The city is very sound financially.”

Each new firefighter costs the city approximately $50,000 in salary and benefits, according to Williams who added that city leaders “looked at a contingency plan” if the grant funding was not received.

“Basically, what it was going to boil down to is we were going to have to possibly move individuals from other stations to staff Station 5,” Williams said. “That would have caused us to have to look at possibly putting some of our guys in more of a hazardous condition because we’d have fewer human resources and would be spread out far across the city.”

The fire department has already begun vetting 20 potential candidates to fill the 15 new positions. Hiring is expected to take place in mid-November or early December. The group will then start an up to 10-week training program, which will be completed prior to the completion of Station 5.

City officials broke ground on the new $2.5 million station at the corner of Clear Lake Meadows Boulevard and Nichols Lane earlier this year. The approximately 11,700 square-foot station is expected to open in February and will feature two fire engine bays as well as a dedicated ambulance bay.

“This unit will not only respond primarily to in the Peach Valley Road and Lock 4 areas... but it would also have the ability to respond in other areas when needed,” Williams added. “All of that really boosts our ability to serve our community with the high level of professionalism as well as getting those folks out there when they are called upon to make a difference.”

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