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Thorsby approves fire grant

The Thorsby Fire Department will be hiring additional part-time personnel – thanks to a federal grant.

The Thorsby Town Council agreed to accept a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER), which will allow the town to hire the equivalent of a 40-hour per week firefighter. Along with accepting the grant, the council also gave raises to the part-time firefighters to bring their salaries close to what the town pays part-time police officers.

The measure passed 3-0 with Council member Willis Britt abstaining due to concerns over financial issues about the grant and raises. Council member James Shropshire was not present at the meeting.

Fire Department Lt. Adam Watley told the council that the grant money would be used to hire three additional part-time personnel that will work on a three-shift schedule. The employees will work eight hours every third weekday.

“We currently have about eight people who are interested in the new positions. I don’t think it will be a problem filling the new positions,” Watley said.

The grant will assist the town in paying for the additional personnel for a five-year period. In the first year, Thorsby could have to pay as much as $2,000 or more for a three-month period. That amount will increase over the next four years until the town must pay for the entire amount itself.

Mayor Tom Bentley had concerns about how the town will be able to pay for the raises and the additional positions.

Watley said the fire department is looking at ways to possibly raise money to pay for the positions. One option was to create an ambulance service through the department, but no definitive action has been made to create a revenue source as of last night.

The town also will be raising its base pay for the part-time firefighters to at least $10 an hour. The scale could increase to almost $14 an hour based on training and rank in the department.