Paso Robles accepts $1.421M SAFER grant


Will be used to hire six new firefighters

PASO ROBLES — The Paso Robles Department of Emergency Services received a boost to its ranks due to a SAFER grant for $1,421,878.

City Council approved, 4-0, Tuesday, Sept. 18, using the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant to defray the cost of adding six firefighters, which will help the department meet the city’s emergency response time goals. Mayor Pro Tem Steve Gregory did not attend the council meeting. The grant is made possible by FEMA.

“I want to compliment staff and especially the fire department for getting that SAFER grant,” said Councilmember John Hamon. “I mean that is amazing to get that much out of a government to help our city at one time, that’s huge.”

Fire Chief Jonathan Stornetta said using the grant will help the city and department on several fronts.

“Hiring six firefighter-paramedics allows the department to move one-step closer to staffing a third fire station as funds become available,” Stornetta said during his staff report to council. “Additional staffing enables the Department of Emergency Services to fully staff and operate the recently approved paramedic squad vehicle and reduce the number of times the department relies on mutual aid for assistance.”

A third fire station is being planned for northeast Paso Robles in the Golden Hill and Union Road area.

Council approved the purchase of a two-person paramedic squad vehicle at the Sept. 6 meeting at a total cost of  $251,185, including the necessary equipment.

The new squad vehicle and additional staffing also will allow the department to cut into its response times, according to Stornetta.

During the past 13 years, the department has experienced a 33 percent increase in emergency calls. Department of Emergency Services is unable to meet the City Council adopted response goal of 4 minutes or less 90 percent of the time.

In 2017, this goal was only achieved 45 percent of the time with an average response time of 6 minutes, 31 seconds.

Following the six hires, the department’s ranks will rise from 22 to 28. The additional staffing is part of the department’s 5-year phasing plan that was adopted by council in concept in August of 2017, contingent on funds being available.

SAFER funding is a three-year commitment. It pays a portion of the total salary and benefit costs for the six firefighter-paramedics. The grant does not cover overtime costs or step increases.

SAFER funding covers 75 percent of the total salary and benefits for year one and two of the six firefighters. SAFER funding covers 35 percent for year three. The City will be responsible for 100 percent funding of the positions starting year four and beyond.

In other council matters:

• Downtown Mural Ordinance — approved the first reading of Ordinance A adding Chapter 21.51 to the Paso Robles Municipal Code (Zoning Ordinance) to allow Original Art Murals (new murals) and Vintage Art Murals (existing murals) on private buildings.

• Office of Traffic Safety Grant — approved acceptance of the State of California Office of Traffic Safety Grant.

• 6-Year Street Repair Plan for Proposed ½ Percent Supplemental Sales Tax — approved the draft 6-Year Street and Sidewalk Repair Plan, should voters approve Measure K, a new 6-year ½ percent supplemental sales tax measure, in November.

• Heaton Building Café Seating — approved encroachment agreement with American Commercial Equities Three, LLC, for the installation of four small fences and concrete patios to create sidewalk café seating at 803A, 803C, 809, and 811 13th St. This approval is contingent upon the property owner confirming that he needs the property for an impending tenancy.

A special City Council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 25.

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