Augusta County has earned more than $2 million in grant money to hire 21 new full-time firefighters. But a pair of big questions loom - Where should they be stationed? And what happens when the money runs out?
Nearly a thousand fire and rescue responders rush to emergency calls in Augusta County. Only 59 of them are full time, paid firefighters, but a Staffing For Adequate Fire & Emergency Response federal grant known as SAFER will push their ranks to 80.
On Wednesday, Augusta County Fire Chief Carson Holloway showed county supervisors his plan for deploying them. Augusta County Supervisor Tracy Pyles said, "It's not going to be perfect for everyone. But I think in an overall sense, it has a lot of good attributes to it."
Under the chief's proposal, the Preston Yancey Department in Fishersville would get three more paid firefighters, and full-time ambulance service. Other departments getting paid help include Riverheads, Weyers Cave, New Hope and Mount Solon. But Augusta still needs help from volunteers.
Holloway said, "Emergency personnel are dedicated, and commit to serving the citizens. In talking with the agencies out here, we have a lot of good volunteers in this county. We simply just don't have enough of them."
The federal grant is just over a million dollars for each of the next two years. After that, supervisors hope to keep paying the responders with money from revenue recovery and savings in overtime and part-time expenses.
Pyles said, "I don't think there will be a big difference between what our taxpayers provide now for this. We'll be pretty close."
Supervisors will vote September 12 on the plan for deploying those new firefighters. All of them should be hired, trained and ready to respond by January.