Township to hire after SAFER grant


By Amanda Amsel
Staff Writer

The Franklin Township Fire Department began to interview applicants for the SAFER Grant.

The fire department, which has faced several setbacks this year, recently received a $1.4 million federal grant called the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant. The grant, which helps fire departments who have faced staffing cuts, pays for the salary and benefits for additional firefighters in an effort to bring staffing back to what it used to be.

Last year, the township laid off four firefighters as a result of the failure of a proposed permanent levy. Due to funding, the fire department was also not able to replace four firefighters who willingly left the department, resulting in the township having eight less firefighters. The grant will allow the department to hire an additional eight firefighters, bringing them back to 40 people.

Part of the requirement to receive the grant was that the department had to hire an additional three people before the SAFER Grant would pay for the additional staff, something the department is working on according to Franklin Township Captain Chas Adams.

“The next step is to start the interview process,” Adams said. “We received 65 applicants and have narrowed the list down to 25. We will interview these applicants and select 10 to hire.”

The department plans to start the new hires the week of November 4 and provide them with a two week fire academy. During that academy, they will learn more about Franklin Township, the fire department and other relevant information. Adams said they plan on having the new hires start actively working in the township on Nov. 18.

“Once everyone is in the place this will be the first time since January 2015 that all our equipment will be able to run 24 hours a day seven days a week,” Adams said. “We are very excited about this opportunity to provide better service to the residents of Franklin Township.”

However, not everyone in the township is celebrating. Township trustee Tim Guyton voted against accepting the grant, stating that the township doesn’t need a fire department this large.

“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 data Guyton presented, in 2014 the township took 2,811 runs in the township and over 7,000 runs in 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 will also have to hire an additional three staff members to receive the grant, something they can’t afford.

However, Fire Chief Jim Welch said that was not accurate.

“Our budget is for 32 firefighters, so we aren’t adding additional staff we haven’t budgeted for,” said Welch.

Trustees Don Cook and John Fleshman voted to approve the staffing grant.

“We were very lucky we received this, but we still have a serious funding issue we need to deal with,” Adams said. “This grant has given us two years to find other sources of revenue and that is something that is constantly on our minds. We have had to shut our stations down numerous times as a result of staffing issues, so this is something we need to get fixed before our two years are up.”

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