Funds would cover cost of hiring for new west side station
PROSPER – Prosper’s Fire Department is preparing for the start of construction of the department’s second fire station on the Town’s burgeoning west side, planning for the necessary amenities and personnel to staff it,
says Fire Chief Ronnie Tucker.
“Ramping up a fully-functioning fire house from scratch takes lots of planning,” he said. “Not only do we have to closely oversee the design and construction to ensure the building meets our needs, but we also have to concern ourselves with outfitting it with the proper equipment. And, of course, hiring the personnel is paramount.”
While the west side fire station, tentatively called Station No. 2, is well on its way to becoming a reality, Tucker has tasked Captain Scott Diliberto with the responsibility of applying for funds from the federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program.
The SAFER program, administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was created to provide funding directly to fire departments to help them hire trained, front line firefighters. Diliberto says the program can be a real asset to a department like Prosper’s, dealing with an increased demand for personnel due to its rapid growth.
“Prosper is growing at an incredible rate, everyone knows that,” he said. “Filling open positions is critical for us. When a fire or other emergency call comes in, we must have the personnel on duty to respond. So, whenever we can get some financial assistance in bringing aboard personnel, it lessens the pressure on the Town.”
Diliberto has completed the grant application and has submitted it to FEMA, requesting $950 thousand. The grant money, should it be approved, will be dedicated to hiring six fulltime firefighter/paramedics destined for Station No. 2. The grant would be enough to fund the station’s staffing, including salaries and benefits, for two years, after which the Town would be responsible for the entire cost.
Prosper has successfully applied for funds from SAFER previously, having been awarded a $1 million grant in 2007. Those funds allowed the Town to hire nine firefighter/paramedics. When the grant funds were fully expended, the Town absorbed the cost of the additional personnel into its budget.
“The SAFER program is designed to assist communities get staffed up quickly,” said Diliberto. “During the life of the grant, while it pays for staff members, cities and towns can make the appropriate decisions regarding ongoing funding for the additional staff.”
A decision on the SAFER grant application will be made by FEMA later this year. “We’re very hopeful that the decision comes down in our favor,” he said.