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City to seek federal grant to hire 12 firefighters

The city of Hendersonville would substantially expand first responder service if the fire department is successful in getting a federal grant to hire 12 firefighter/EMTs.

In a 4-1 vote, the City Council authorized Fire Chief Joe Vindigni to apply for the federal grant, which pays for most of the firefighter salaries for three years.
Under terms of the grant, the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA would cover 75 percent of the cost in year 1 and 2 and 65 percent in year 3. In year 4, the city would shoulder the whole cost.
During a budget retreat last month, Vindigni presented a consultant’s study that showed the city needed to increase its fire force both for safety reasons and to meet state Insurance Department standards. Vindigni recommended that the city apply for a grant for 15 firefighters. The council instead settled on 12.
Councilman Jerry Smith voted no.
“By doing 12,” Smith said, “you know we’re automatically projecting another tax increase four years from now, just to do this.”
Besides the cost of around $675,000 a year to cover the additional personnel, the council agreed that it would buy a new fire truck, at a cost of about $800,000.

With the new firefighter/EMTs, the city would go from two to three engine companies, the number Vindigni said is needed to adequately and quickly respond to structure fires, medical calls and other emergencies.