The Smithville Fire Department has not yet heard from its application for a FEMA SAFER grant for hiring of full time firefighters.
While Mayor Taft Hendrixson believes Chief Charlie Parker filed for the wrong grant and has no chance of it being approved, Parker said Monday night, the city is still in the running. "Mayor Hendrixson had been advised from Congressman Black's office and sources in Washington that we had applied for the wrong grant completely," said Chief Parker. "That was not my understanding but I didn't have the paperwork with me at the last meeting. On page three of the guide under the eligibility requirements it says volunteer fire departments may apply for funding in the following categories: #1 is "Hiring of Firefighters Category (hiring career firefighters)". The second category is the "Recruitment and Retention of Volunteer Firefighters". You can apply for both if you do two applications. As I stated at the last meeting, I was really under the gun trying to do this and I barely did get the one in that I chose to. On the last page of that guide, it also has the "Specific funding parameters". It says that "10% of the grant monies is set aside for grants awarded to volunteer or mostly volunteer departments for hiring of firefighters." So in my thinking, that means they're setting 10% money back to hire new hires for volunteer departments. That's the reason why I decided to go for the grant that we did. The mayor has said we had no chance. We may get turned down tomorrow. I don't know. But as of 6:00 p.m. this evening (Monday) we've still not received any turn down notice or denial of the grant. To my knowledge we're still in the running," he said.
Chief Parker said the grant would fund up to three positions. "What I have proposed in this grant is for an administrative person and two forty hour per week positions. We'd have an administrator to take care of some of the paperwork and then we would have two people here on a forty hour per week job. That's basically forty hours per week during the day. We're extremely short during the daytime hours. Most of these guys and gals work at the factories and its getting to where they can't leave(work) anymore. Its hard on the factories to let some of them out because they have production they have to meet so unless its something extremely important, its hard for them to leave. Most of the maintenance has to be done during the daytime. So if we can get two people on a forty hour per week job we can take care of some of the maintenance and testing. Right now, if we need supplies, bulbs, things like this, somebody has got to take off during the day and go to the parts store or go to the shed. We need somebody to do that during the daytime. There's a lot of little things that eats up time that really nobody thinks about. We've got to do something. If we can get a two year period where we can prove ourselves (with paid firefighters) we may be able to lower our ISO ratings. I've talked to our ISO representative. If we added some people, even on a forty hour a week basis, it would go toward our ISO total scores to help us lower that, which would in turn lower insurance rates for everybody. There's several people in the city that may never need a fire truck. But when you need one, you want one then and you expect it then. There are a lot of people who don't have need of our services. That's great. But most everybody does pay insurance and if we can help lower the insurance rates for your home or business that's a benefit year after year. We're striving for better fire protection for the city of Smithville. We've got to find that niche that we can afford. I feel the people of Smithville need good fire protection. I think they deserve it. When industry comes to town, they look at these things. When they decide to relocate, they look at fire protection. They look at insurance classifications. They look at several things when they come in so we want to do our part to try and make it appealing to industry to relocate here too," said Chief Parker.