Ann Arbor Council Adds One Firefighter

The number of firefighters authorized in the current year’s budget for the city of Ann Arbor nudged upward by one, to 86, as a result of city council action taken at its Nov. 8, 2012 meeting. The position will be funded for the rest of the current fiscal year by tapping the general fund balance reserve for $50,000. For the full year next year, the additional position would cost about $82,000.

According to a memo sent by city administrator Steve Powers to city councilmembers, as the budget planing cycle begins for FY 2014-015, he anticipates being able to maintain the 86 firefighter positions. Part of the rationale for adding the additional position was based on the fact that a recent hiring cycle to fill six positions had resulted in seven highly qualified candidates. The additional position would, according to Powers’ memo, help manage overtime and allow assignment of personnel to fire prevention work. He indicated at the Nov. 8 meeting that this increase would not have an impact either way on the possible restructuring of the city’s fire stations – from five to three stations.

The staffing level at 85 already reflects the addition of three firefighters since the FY 2013 budget was approved on May 21, 2012. That staffing level increase, from 82 to 85, were funded from a $642,294 federal grant through the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER), which was announced earlier this year on May 30, 2012. The vote to accept the SAFER grant and add three firefighter positions was taken at the council’s Aug. 9, 2012 meeting. At that time fire chief Chuck Hubbard, reported that the city had three vacancies, or 79 firefighters on staff.

The $321,000 from the SAFER grant for each of the next two years was allocated for three firefighter positions, which the city estimates will cost $255,000 (at $85,000 per position). The remaining $66,000 per year will be spent on other unspecified fire services needs, according to the staff memo accompanying the council’s August resolution – including overtime and fleet expenses. To hire a fourth firefighter was analyzed at the time as requiring $19,000 of fund balance.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]