Firefighter grant faces more questions
By Bob Okon email@example.com October 2, 2012 5:38PM
Updated: November 4, 2012 6:19AM
JOLIET — The Joliet City Council wants more information to sort out whether hiring eight firefighters with a $2 million federal grant will make sense financially for the city.
The firefighters are slated to be hired Oct. 18.
The council has been grappling with terms of the grant, which is designed to restore local fire departments to full staffing but also provides waivers for cities that make a case that they cannot replace every firefighter who leaves.
Since the council voted in August to accept the grant, one firefighter already has retired and another is expected to leave in January.
Fire Chief Joseph Formhals said he will apply next week for a waiver for the firefighter who has left.
Not replacing firefighters, however, now has some council members wondering if the city will lose the main financial benefit provided by the grant: lower overtime costs when the city has more firefighters to cover more shifts.
At a Monday workshop meeting, Councilman John Gerl asked for a staff analysis of how much overtime costs the city is likely to face when firefighters are not replaced.
On the other hand, council members worry that replacing every firefighter will make it harder to fill vacancies in the police department and road crews, where the manpower shortages have become greater since the city began trimming budgets three years ago.
“We certainly know that there’s a balancing act that has to take place in this process,” City Manager Thomas Thanas said. He said staff will prepare an analysis of the financial impact on overtime costs if fire department vacancies are left unfilled.