Hollister council members unanimously approved a resolution to hire six full-time firefighters Monday following the loss of a federal grant that previously funded a dozen positions.
Costs associated with the additional personnel are about $505,000 for a year.
The decision comes after the Hollister Fire Department failed to receive federal funding through the SAFER grant, which would have provided the department with $1,145,000 per year.
In 2014, the department was awarded $2.2 million, which provided funding to staff 12 firefighters full time for two years. The loss of that funding has led to the department laying off 12 firefighters previously funded with the grant.
Council candidate Tim Burns spoke during public comment and said that while the hire is a good bridge, he’s not convinced it’s a permanent solution.
“We’ll be better tomorrow than we are today, but we won’t be as good as when we had those 12 firefighters who are no longer on board,” Burns said.
Councilman Victor Gomez apologized for not being at last week’s special meeting concerning fire department staffing levels, and thanked Fire Chief Bob Martin Del Campo for his leadership.
“Today, we, with these six firefighters being added, are in a way better scenario than we were in 2009,” Councilman Victor Gomez said. “I don’t see it as a loss of 12; I see it as an addition of six. I don’t see this as a concern; I see it as a bonus for our community.”
Councilman Karson Klauer asked Martin Del Campo if the overtime budget had been ironed out.
“We went ahead and allocated $165,000 to make sure that we were not going to go over the overtime budget,” Martin Del Campo said. “It was increased to meet the need going forward from this date—not the whole year, but from this date to the end of the fiscal year.”
During last week’s special meeting, Martin Del Campo gave a slideshow presentation that showed estimates for the department’s budget, salary and overtime.
The fire department’s new budget is now $6,521,074, not including $1,150,000 for new fire vehicles. Salaries are $2,921,728, and the overtime budget is $490,000.
Mayor Ignacio Velazquez talked about continuing the partnership between the City of Hollister, San Benito County, and the City of San Juan Bautista, which all use the fire department.
“We have to continue that partnership,” Velazquez said. “We need to get to a point, if we really want good service throughout the county, we need to have that as a permanent partnership.”