HANOVER -- Thanks to a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant, Hanover Fire-EMS will be able to place a dozen new firefighters in badly-needed service areas ahead of schedule.
The Hanover County Board of Supervisors approved a five-year plan to hire the additional fire personnel, but the funds from the Fed allows Chief Jethro Piland to hire those employees early and provide additional service for county residents.
The Mechanicsville Station is the busiest fire station in the county with the largest amount of calls last year. Piland said the division’s goal of responding within nine minutes to 80 percent of the calls received will be more attainable with the new employees.
The federal grant provides 75 percent of the salaries and benefits for the first two years, and 35 percent the final year of the grant. The grant totals about $1.37 million during the three-year period beginning in March 2020.
“I want to talk specifically about the Mechanicsville District,” Piland said. “In the Mechanicsville District in 2018, our men and women responded to just over 4,000 9-1-1calls.”Just in the Mechanicsville District, our men and women are running between 16 and 18 calls a day.”
Piland said fire officials studied that area and “carved out a new proposed district to enhance services and provide relief on the existing staffing.”
That zone in the Lee Davis Road area will be the home to a future Station 17, but the firefighters will be hired long before that plan is finalized. Had the proposed district existed in 2018, it would have responded to more than 2,000 9-1-1 calls.
“If you approve this grant, we will be able to hire these folks and place them in service on or about August 2020. Our plan is to temporarily house them at Station 7 in Mechanicsville until we can finish the budgetary process and plan and build a future fire station,” Piland said.
“In essence, what I’m doing is leveraging fire years of staffing and fast forwarding them . . . putting them in service in August.”
The additional firefighters were previously budgeted to be installed during the next five years, but the grant will allow them to begin their employment next year with no additional cost to the county.
“The way I’m understanding is that, with this, we get the firefighters at the same cost over five years that we already had planned,” HCBOS chair Canova Peterson, Mechanicsville, asked.
“We will bring on board the 12 positions that are funded in our five-year plan . . . all at once,” Piland responded.
South Anna supervisor Wayne Hazzard clarified that these positions previously existed in the five-year plan and funds had been approved and budgeted. “With this grant we bring it forward early at no extra cost to us,” he said.
“In the meantime, our citizens get better response,” Peterson said.
Supervisors approved the grant by a unanimous vote.
In other matters, assistant county administrator Frank Harksen updated the board on its mandate to establish and form a broadband committee to study possible solutions that would improve internet service in under-served portions of the county.
Last month, Beaverdam supervisor Bucky Stanley called for the committee’s creation after several citizens addressed the board regarding the need for such a panel.
Harksen said he studied similar programs in other localities and suggested two board members serve on the panel along with five appointed members with expertise associated with the subject such as IT or GPS mapping.
The two board representatives will be chosen next month and the panel should hold its first meeting in January 2020 and provide a report to the board by January 2021.