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Hartselle must obligate $444,055 if city gets grant for firefighters

By Deangelo McDaniel · 340-2469

HARTSELLE — The City Council will decide Monday whether to seek a federal grant that will obligate Hartselle for $444,055 over five years.

The decision will come almost two weeks after city leaders turned down Fire Chief Steve Shelton’s request to hire four firefighters next year.

Hartselle tried unsuccessfully two years ago to get this grant. If the city is successful, Hartselle’s match amounts would be $16,151 the first year, $33,271 the second year, $87,025 the third year, $125,827 the fourth year and $181,781 the fifth year.

So far, Mark Mizell is the only councilman to express concerns about the grant.

He said during budget hearings the grant is good if you have money and plans to hire additional firefighters.

“At some point, you lose the grant support and the city is totally obligated for the bill,” Mizell said.

Council President Kenny Thompson, who will not be at Monday’s work session when the council discusses the grant, views it differently.

“Anytime you can get free money you try to get it,” he said. “I don’t have any problems obligating the city for the money if we can get the grant.”

Shelton has lobbied city leaders two years for additional firefighters, at an estimated cost of $161,730 annually.

Using information several fire organizations compiled, he told the council earlier this month that the extra firefighters would put Hartselle at the 65 percent “effective level.”

Effective means the city would have at least four-person crews per vehicle when fighting structural fires. The desired number is five per vehicle.

Hartselle has 16 firefighters, which means sometimes there are only two firefighters per truck, Shelton said.

For monetary reasons, the council turned down Shelton’s request for additional firefighters and agreed to look at grants.

The resolution that city leaders will discuss Monday authorizes a grant application.

Hartselle received a similar grant for the Police Department when Robert Stephenson was mayor.

In the fifth year when the city was responsible for picking up the full amount for the additional officers, Hartselle reduced the force and almost had the entire grant charged back to city funds.

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