Clovis News

Grant to help fund 6 Clovis firefighter jobs

Clovis is adding six firefighters after receiving a grant through the federal government's economic-stimulus program.

The city received confirmation Friday that it will get the grant six months after the city was initially told the money was coming.

The $1.1 million will allow the city to reopen its new downtown Clovis fire station, which is closed most of the year because of city budget cuts.

Under terms of the grant, the federal money will cover 100% of the first two years of firefighter costs. The city must pick up third-year costs, which could exceed $580,000.

Fire Chief Rick Bennett said Friday that the money allows the department to improve its response times.

The department's goal is to get to 90% of emergency calls within five minutes. Since budget cuts began in 2007, the five-minute response rate has fallen to 79% from 87%.

Bennett said there had been concern in recent weeks about getting the money, since the federal government released all but $10 million of the more than $200 million in funding before this week.

The city can choose from hundreds of applications to hire the six firefighters. They could be on duty by February, Bennett said.

In 2006, the department had 68 sworn firefighters. There are 57 now.

Rich Cadigan, president of the Clovis Firefighters' Association, was encouraged after learning about the funding.

"We are not back to where we were, but we are getting close," he said.

In April, when the Clovis City Council agreed to the terms of the grant, Mayor Harry Armstrong said he was worried about the third year, which is when the city has to pay for the firefighters from its own budget.

At the time, he was not sure the economy would improve enough to pay for the new firefighters, which would mean they'd be laid off.

But on Friday, he sounded more optimistic.

"I am worried about it, but I think if we can fill up the rest of the Sierra Vista Mall and the economy takes a little swing," he said, "we should be able to pull ourselves through."