The city missing a $712,000 grant because proper procedure wasn’t followed might seem like a case of inattention by city officials. While there was some of that, turning down the grant was the right call.
The money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency would have helped hire three additional firefighters. But the grant required a match of $442,676, which isn’t in the budget. The grant rules also would have required the city to commit to keeping the new hires on after the three-year grant ran out.
Beyond that, Ashland Fire & Rescue is not desperate for more personnel. The City Council authorized hiring three new firefighters in 2016, and the department filled the positions in 2017.
Fire Chief Mike D’Orazi said the department is handling its calls for service adequately with the staff it has, relying on mutual aid from other departments when needed, which is common practice throughout the valley. While it’s always nice to have more people, additional firefighters at this point likely would perform other tasks such as community outreach and risk analysis inspections. Those are important, too, but less critical than responding to fire calls in a timely manner.
City Administrator Kelly Madding said grant applications require City Council approval, but this one was missed because the city had an interim administrator, a new fire chief and a new finance director. So chalk it up to a learning experience, and look forward to smoother sailing as the city approaches its next biennial budget process next year.