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Hartselle not hiring additional firefighters

By Deangelo McDaniel · 340-2469

HARTSELLE — There may be a need, but city leaders here said they will not hire four firefighters next year.

“We just can’t afford it,” Council President Kenny Thompson said

The department has 16 firefighters.

Using information compiled by several fire organizations, Fire Chief Steve Shelton lobbied the council during his budget presentation for the additional employees.

To be at the effective level, Shelton said, the studies recommend at least four-person crews per vehicle when fighting a structural fire.

“Sometimes we have only two per truck,” he said.

The estimated cost of the additional firefighters would be $161,730 annually.

“Is there anyway you can cut your budget and get four?” Thompson asked.

“No, sir,” Shelton answered.

Councilman Samie Wiley asked Shelton how many structural fires the department has fought this year.

Shelton did not know. He pointed out, however, that Hartselle has twice had multiple fires and had to call for outside help.

“We had time delays,” Shelton said. “We want to provide service to our citizens without compromise.”

The council suggested Shelton look at strengthening the city’s volunteer force, which totals 18.

That’s down by four since Shelton became fire chief because he now requires volunteers to reside within three miles of the city.

Shelton explained that he initiated the three-mile limit because Hartselle had some volunteers living as far away as Cullman. He said volunteers are down in every department.

“There are a lot of (volunteers) who want the name recognition, but do not want to participate,” he said.

Mayor Dwight Tankersley said the proposed $9.5 million revenue budget the council has reviewed includes $325,000 for a new Fire Department pumper truck.

The budget does not include additional employees for any department, he said. But, it does have a 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment and merit raises for all employees, which will cost about $199,451.

Tankersley said the city is able to give every employee a raise because the council has opted not to create senior level positions for employees topping out.

A salary survey study the council paid for almost a year ago, recommended senior-level positions.

Shelton and Police Chief Ron Puckett mentioned the positions during budget hearings.

Puckett said his officers are appreciative of what the council has done and didn’t want the positions at the expense of everybody else not getting a raise.

“We can’t do both and I think the council wants to give all the employees a raise,” Thompson said.

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