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Fire Board OKs Request of More Money from Bellevue, Dayton & Grant for More Firefighters

It made the second-highest number of fire and EMS runs in all of Campbell Co. last year but the Bellevue-Dayton Fire Department has the lowest daily manpower of the six departments.

Only Newport made more runs, but Alexandria, Central, Ft. Thomas, and Wilder, along with Newport, have higher daily staffing counts than the merged department in Bellevue and Dayton. At a special meeting of the Bellevue-Dayton Fire Board on Monday, a motion was approved encouraging Chief Michael Auteri to pursue a federal grant that would allow for the hiring of three firefighters.

The board also approved Auteri's plans to request $60,000 from each city to cover the cost of bathroom renovations and new defibrillators.

The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant would cover the cost of the additional firefighters for approximately two years, at which point the fire department would have to cover the firefighters' further employment. 

Having a federal grant cover the costs of additional firefighters for two years gives the cities time to plan for budgeting purposes when the time would come to retain the new hires. The additional manpower would also bring the department into compliance with national firefighter standards. "Three brings us into compliance and three gives us a better chance to get the grant with the realization or understanding that the city is going to have to, in two years, shell out another $120,000 apiece," said Bellevue City Councilman and Fire Board member Matt Olliges. "That gives them extra time to plan and budget for it."

Dayton City Councilman and Fire Board member Jerry Gifford was concerned about bringing on new firefighters with no guarantee that they could be retained when the grant funds expire. "To me, I don't like to mess with people's lives, if you get them and all of a sudden we don't have the money," he said.

Chief Auteri said that that circumstance has happened in the past in relation to SAFER grants which place a priority on re-hiring laid off firefighters.

Though both cities are optimistic about their expected growth in the coming years, particularly in Dayton where a new housing development is underway on the riverfront, Gifford cautioned his fellow board members from making decisions based on optimistic projections. "In my heart, I don't figure on new business," Gifford said. "I figure we got to get this money from where we are and not where we want to be."

Auteri, at the previous Fire Board meeting, drew attention to the department's low number of personnel and need for a fleet upgrade. The fire board determined that the bathroom renovations and defibrillators could be attained in the near term.

Dayton will hear the request first, at Tuesday night's city council meeting.

"I'm not just asking for this because I want it," Auteri said. "I'm looking out and it's my job to let the city know and this board know that this is what you're going to need to provide the best service to your community and your visitors."

"For a long time we didn't get anything and now we're paying for it."

Story & photo by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News