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FDMJ to add three firefighters

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Mt. Juliet's three-year-old fire department will get a boost of three additional firefighters thanks to funding recently garnered from a hefty grant accepted by city commissioners Monday night.

Fire Department of Mt. Juliet Chief Jamie Luffman applied for the highly competitive grant after an unsuccessful try last year.

The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant is in the amount of $310,695 and is geared to assist firefighter staffing.

"The grant allows us to hire three more fire fighters, which will give us seven per shift now," Luffman said.

"It is for 24 months, then we'll have to take on about $155,000 annually to cover the expenses related to the additional personnel hired under this grant."

According to FDMJ Deputy Chief Chris Allen, the SAFER monies will "ensure bare minimum staffing levels."

The additional personnel will help "reduce the need to force employees to work" to cover shifts and will also reduce overtime costs, improve morale and maintain status quo, Allen added.

Allen noted the SAFER grant will not eliminate overtime, provide any staffing for a third station (which would require 12 new employees), full time staff for ladder trucks, nor expand operations.

City too spend $20,000 for gear/fix wage compression

Along with accepting the SAFER grant on first reading Monday night, commissioners addressed a need associated with hiring the three new firefighters.

On first reading they passed a budget amendment to approve $20,000 to go toward purchasing three sets of turnout gear to outfit the new hires, along with fixing wage compression issues.

The $20,000 will be split for these two needs.

According to Luffman, some of the growing pains of the department were realized in wage compression.

This means some of the supervisors were making little more than (and in some cases, less than) their direct reports.

They said the salaries of subordinates will continue to pass salaries of their supervisors. The $10,000 will go toward trying to fix this.

"We have lost full time firefighters to surrounding jurisdictions due to compensation issues," Allen noted before the meeting.

"Several of our experienced officers are frustrated due to wage compression and staffing challenges."

They are also frustrated with "forced" extra shifts.

Both the resolution to accept the SAFER grant and the $20,000 budget amendment passed 4-0 with Mayor Ed Hagerty absent.

More discussion will most likely take place before second reading on Sept. 12 in city chambers.

Writer Laurie Everett can be reached at laurieeverett1@gmail.com

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