The Port Arthur News
PORT NECHES —
Two new firefighter positions are in the works for the city of Port Neches that will put them in line with staffing numbers for other Mid-County cities.
Council will consider accepting a federal grant called the Assistance to Firefighters Act — Safer Grant for the two positions in the amount of $289,638 during the 4 p.m. meeting on Thursday at city hall.
“This will raise the number of firefighters from 12 to 14, which is exactly what Nederland and Groves (fire departments) have right now,” Port Neches Fire Chief Steve Curran said.
Hiring for the positions will start May 1.
Council approved the submission of the grant application Aug. 15, 2013, for the grant, which does not require a city match. Funding for the positions will be paid with the grant for two years. After that, the city will have to decide how to continue funding the new positions.
“The expectation of this grant is that the positions will then be fully funded by the city upon expiration of the program monies,” Port Neches City Manager Andrè Wimer said.
Future funding could come from a tax rate increase.
“Council was advised, during the Aug. 15 meeting, that dependent on economic conditions at the time of expiration of the two-year time period, it may be necessary to upwardly adjust the tax rate in order to provide funding necessary to retain those two newly created positions,” Wimer said.
Curran explained that adding the new positions is part of an overall plan developed when he was hired by the city in 2004. The goal is to comply with the “two in and two out” standard operating procedure.
“This improves the efficiency by 25 percent when going from three on a truck to four,” Curran said.
Back in 2004, PNFD was making about 400 calls a month. That number increased through the years. During 2005 when Hurricane Rita struck the coast, that number jumped to about 1,500.
Council will also discuss an ordinance establishing the number of positions in the fire department. They include one fire marshal/assistant fire chief, three captains and nine firefighters.
Besides adding two new positions to the fire department, Council will also consider the purchase of a new Jaws of Life and related equipment for a total of $41,526. Funding for the equipment was included in the current year city budget.
Curran said the new equipment will replace the 22-year-old Hurst brand Jaws of Life that is now an obsolete set of tools which are leaking and loosing strength.
“The fluids used in the original set are acidic and poisonous and are no longer used in new extrication sets,” he said. “The newer Jaws of Life now operate with higher pressure and use safe mineral oils for the hydraulics.”
The newer tools, he added, are about half the weight with twice the strength of the current set.