Ann Arbor Receives Firefighter Grant

In a press release issued on May 30, 2012, Michigan’s U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin announced the award of a $642,294 federal grant to the city of Ann Arbor to hire new firefighters. The grant comes through the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) program. How that money translates to firefighter positions is not yet completely clear.

Reached by email, city administrator Steve Powers indicated that the city’s application had been for three firefighter positions for what he believed to be two-year grant period. Ann Arbor’s unit cost for a firefighter full-time equivalent is $79,599 per FTE. For a two-year grant period, that would translate to almost exactly four firefighters for each of two years. [642,294 /79,599 = 8.06]

Staff for Stabenow and Levin were not able to offer definitive information on the grant period.

Four additional firefighters would bring the total budgeted number in the city of Ann Arbor to 86. The city council approved a fiscal year 2013 budget on May 21, 2012 that provided for 82 firefighter positions.

As part of its approval of the fiscal year 2013 budget, the council passed a resolution that did not modify city administrator Steve Powers’ proposed budget. Rather, it directed Powers to bring forward an amendment to the budget in the future – in case the state of Michigan fire protection funding or the SAFER grant were awarded. The budget resolution directed the administrator to hire up to six firefighters, which in Ann Arbor’s department would amount to $477,594 ($79,599 per FTE). Adding six firefighters would bring the budgeted staffing to 88, which Ann Arbor fire chief Chuck Hubbard has said would be his target.

The council’s next meeting is June 4, 2012. Powers indicated in his email that the exact details of the grant term would be confirmed by May 31.

For a detailed account of the council deliberations on the budget, see Chronicle coverage: “Debate Details: FY 2013 Budget

Update early May 31: According to city administrator Steve Powers, “The SAFER grant is for two years. The funding will allow the hiring of at least three firefighters and possibly four. Staff will need to review the official award to maximize the number of positions.”