By Amanda Amsel
Despite receiving several setbacks this year, Franklin Township has something to celebrate as its fire department announced it received a much coveted federal grant.
Franklin Township was notified that it received the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant in early July and announced the news at a recent township board meeting.
“This is an exciting time for the township,” said Captain Charles Adams. “We were notified that we received the $1.4 million grant for the next two years. This money will be used to pay the salary and benefits for additional firefighters, so we can bring our staffing back to what it used to be.”
The federal grant comes from federal taxes everyone pays and won’t cost Franklin Township residents any additional money.
Franklin Township Fire Department Union President Ron DeLozier said the grant would allow the department to hire an additional eight firefighters, bringing the staff back to 40. Currently, the department has 29 people and needs to hire an additional three people before the SAFER grant will pay for the additional staff.
At the meeting, trustees Don Cook and John Fleshman voted to accept the grant. Trustee Tim Guyton said he could not support the township accepting the grant.
“The reason I say no to this is because the easy part is approving the application,” Guyton said. “However, what I continue to stress is that based on the runs the fire department takes into the township, we do not need a staff at the level we are at.”
According to Guyton, the township fire department makes more emergency runs into the city of Columbus, than in the township. He recently spoke to city officials about this topic.
The township and city have a mutual aid agreement and typically the closest engine will respond to an emergency.
According to data Guyton presented, in 2014 the township took 2,811 runs in the township, but double that into the city of Columbus.
“There is a run disparity between the township and Columbus. Last year, Columbus only took 1,283 runs in Franklin Township,” Guyton said. “How much do we really need to staff the fire department when we only take a few runs a week?”
Guyton said the township would also have to hire three additional staff members to receive the grant, something he said the township cannot afford.
However, Jim Welch, acting fire chief, said that was not accurate.
“Our budget is for 32 firefighters, so we are not adding staff we haven’t budgeted for,” said Welch.
Rick Howard, former fire chief, said the firefighters the township would be replacing will be at a lower pay salary, saving the township money.
The township will start interviewing SAFER Grant applicants right away and stated if they hire veterans they could prolong the grant. The township plans to have the department back to full staffing by late fall.
“The bottom line is, this township will be safer because of this grant,” Adams said. “We won’t have to temporarily close fire stations and we will have the adequate staffing we need without costing the township additional money.”