PTC ponders $650K grant for 6 new firefighters

Tue, 08/18/2009 - 4:04pm
By: John Munford

The Peachtree City Council will decide Thursday night whether to accept a $650,000 grant that will help fund six additional full-time firefighters over a five-year period.

Although the city expects to be on the hook for only $50,238 in the first year, the city “match” to the grant escalates each year. The grant would require committing a total of roughly $1 million from the city’s budget over the next five years.

Because of the tight budget this year, city officials are proposing to make cuts in the fire department to get the $50,000 match needed for the first year.

Among the cuts are a delay in a number of purchases, including dive team and water rescue equipment, firefighting foam, station cleaning supplies and more.

Also the department is diverting money from professional services including funds for drug screening, medical physicals and vaccines in addition to foregoing several training conferences.

The six firefighters would add two firefighters per shift for a total of 19 firefighters at all four fire stations.

Council will also hold a public hearing on raising the city’s millage rate by .244 mills. Doing so would add $24.40 to the property tax bill for a home with a fair market value of $250,000.

Two other public hearings are scheduled on the millage rate: one for Thursday morning at 7:30 a.m. and the other Aug. 27 at 6:30 p.m.

The City Council’s regular meeting convenes at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

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Submitted by cdl305 on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 10:28pm.

Nothing like getting free money from the government that costs us nearly 1.1 million dollars over five years. Also left out of the discussion is the $370,000 it will cost in each year after the grant - yes folks, that equals about $10 ADDITIONAL tax per man, woman and child in the city. And guess, what, we already have more fireman than the average for a city under 100,000 people. We also spend more money per capita on fire/EMS than the city of New York. I suppose with our skyscrapers that this makes sense. It is simple - it is irresponsible to spend this money.

Submitted by Bonkers on Sun, 08/23/2009 - 5:59am.

I thought as you do, that our expenses per year will increase about 3-400,000 dollars per year by hiring the six more.

It is just a way to increase taxes for several years without asking every year. Oh, and by the way it is NOT a tax!

Submitted by normal on Sat, 08/22/2009 - 9:38pm.

We have 3 fire departments in fayette county. We only need one. Combine them into one Fayette county EMS/Fire. We should save millions just by getting rid of the top fat we dont need. ONe Chief instead of 3 and so one. But we have all these monster egoes that everyone needs there own. Now is the time start chopping and save us.

Submitted by intheknow on Sun, 08/23/2009 - 1:41pm.

While combining or consolidating fire departments can sometimes work, one would only have to look to the many communities whom have split from combined agencies in recent years. Locally, call residents and city administration in places like Sandy Springs, Milton, Johns Creek, Fairburn and Palmetto whom all broke away from Fulton County Fire Department, and created their own Fire Departments, and ask them WHY! They all did so at great expense, in many cases to improve the protection afforded their residents or resolve inequities in the services provided. It’s not always advantageous to combine agencies, and as I’ve pointed out several times before in these blogs. Do you really think in combining agencies that there would be “millions” in savings? Or if you’re a Peachtree City resident would you eventually end up paying the same amount in tax as unincorporated county residents presently do, and subsequently find that a portion of your taxes are actually subsidizing fire and EMS operations in other parts of the county.

Don Haddix's picture
Submitted by Don Haddix on Sun, 08/23/2009 - 8:53am.

Fayetteville has a combined fire service, meaning part city and part county, but they have no EMS, just county.

We use to be serviced by the county, but we got the short end of stick all the time. Long response times with few facilities located here. That is why we now have separate services. It was not pleasant being lower priority.

Yes, there has been some talk of combining, but it has been made clear our equipment would get redistributed to other stations and we would have significant station reduction.

Until the attitude changes that Fayetteville is the county the problems will continue. Just ask Tyrone and other cities to verify it exists.

There is progress. We are now part of the DTF, which was unthinkable under old county leadership. More needs to be done and I am trying to open doors for more cooperation, but some of the Good Ole Boys keep throwing up road blocks.

Until we get over those issues merger isn't feasible.

Don Haddix
PTC Councilman
Post 1

Submitted by Bonkers on Sun, 08/23/2009 - 2:40pm.

You are finally talking about what the real problem is with FD and PD eficiency!

Jobs---number one, then prestige, number two, then politics, numbert three, then, maybe efficiency.

Use as excuses:

8 minutes response (rigged most of the time) instead of 9-10 minutes, not enough men or women to man trucks at 45 different stations!

Submitted by normal on Sun, 08/23/2009 - 9:05am.

I know what you are saying, You know everyone wants to be the Chief, Thats why the waste, Morale at the county cant get much worse. No I do not work there if anyone cares. I just hear a lot.

Don Haddix's picture
Submitted by Don Haddix on Thu, 08/20/2009 - 11:30am.

cmc865 is correct. PTC is ranked as the smallest Staff and employee ratio to population in the State by the last rankings I saw. We are well below the national average. NY is one of the highest.

We are understaffed a total of 9 police and 21 firemen to reach appropriate levels to service our needs. The two police being hired will allow us to have a full time fraud investigator and patrol officer, which we need badly. The 6 fireman will help end having trucks staffed by one fireman, which is totally unacceptable when there should be 3.

Yes, it will cost money to pay the fireman after the grant ends, nothing is free. But what you neglect to deal with is the faster response times save lives and reduce property damage. As well it will improve our ICO rating which will reduce insurance costs for many residents. So there is far more to consider than what you are saying.

As our community ages and neighboring counties encroach more on Fayette as a whole police, fire and ems calls increase, as our stats are clearly showing. To maintain old personnel levels is to actually decrease service.

I have personally pushed for reforms, over the resistance of the majority, that have saved almost a million dollars. So I am well aware of the need for fiscal responsibility and tax burdens. But we have to maintain a minimum level of service or our homes values, safety and way of life will deteriorate.

Don Haddix
PTC Councilman
Post 1

Submitted by pomsmom on Sat, 08/22/2009 - 9:25pm.

hope my lifestyle doesn't deteriorate anymore.I thought we are supposed to be trying to find ways to cut expenses. So what if your way of life changes. Wake up and smell the cheap coffee we are in a recession. I don't care what the pres says.

Submitted by cdl305 on Thu, 08/20/2009 - 5:12pm.

Your understaffing comments are based upon what piece of information? According to national averages for cities of our size, we are overstaffed on fire/EMS and adequately staffed for police. Police staffing does not take into account our low crime rate due to demographics (Department of Justice study is the source of this "ignorant" information). If left to their own choices, our Public Safety departments seem to never get enough. Show me facts based on actual data, not wish list and a management concept.

Submitted by Bonkers on Thu, 08/20/2009 - 1:35pm.

Are you assuming that PTC has as many different kinds of crime as NYC, per person?

Of course to compare those two on any level is silly.

Each town needs what it needs. Has nothing to do with how many citizens they have.

Crime rates and type of people and poverty help determine those needed.

Th compare how many needed to others is a union type excuse to hire and hire.
Everyone we hire means other towns also hire to keep up with us!

We may have sixteen officers above corporal rank in 80, others hardly any. They make more money and do less!
Same in FD.

Can you breakdown our staffing by salary? I have never seen it.

Now all of the devotees of these departments and town staff will be ticked about such questions, but why can't we know? We gripe about taxes but ignore some of the largest spenders!

What percentage of the city budget is Staff, PD, FD, and capital expenditure pay-offs?

We don't even have a jail! Every cop has a car that wants one.

Of course we need to spend enough for these groups--maybe more for some individuals and less for others, but we need to know.
Our elected are 100% for more and more.

Submitted by Spyglass on Sat, 08/22/2009 - 5:36pm.

say hello to an idiot. \

That is all for August...enjoy...

Submitted by skippy875 on Thu, 08/20/2009 - 4:15pm.

Well....where to start? Let's just keep it simple for the " average " people that may or may not be influenced by ramblings and innacurate information. The PCFD has strived for many years to attain adequate staffing levels, while at the same time always overachieving and performing well above many departments nationwide. The department not only provides for fire protection, but also provides superior Emergency Medical services with many members that are recognized as trend setting professionals in this ever changing business. This grant that seems to have shaken the hornets nest is a " no brainer " to quote one of it's members. These additional personnel are badly needed right now, and to tell the truth they were needed years ago! The make-up of the PCFD is very diverse ranging from full-time, part-time, volunteer, Special duty volunteers, and an explorer post. The latter gives the youth of this city invaluable experiences, and the hope of EVERY member is that they will take these experiences and become young adults with the ability to rationalize and make good decisions. While I understand the concerns and fiscal responsibilities that come with this grant, I also demand that every available avenue be traveled to ensure that personnel, ENOUGH personnel be on the rigs when the rubber meets the road if you will. To break it down even more, my children live in the city, and I don't care what the cost is to make sure that if the unthinkable ever occured.....that enough resources were there initally to give them a fighting chance....really thats all we are asking for..a fighting chance for your families and ours!

Submitted by Bonkers on Fri, 08/21/2009 - 3:56am.

Everyone must now make do with what they have. Or less.

You can teach all of the scouts that you want.

Close a fire station or two and have more at each station.
Sometimes it is necessary to take a couple of more minutes to get to a wreck or a fire.

One doesn't have to drain the ocean to put out a camp fire when there is only a camp fire needing put out twice a week!

The "rubber can meet the road" from less places.

DarkMadam's picture
Submitted by DarkMadam on Fri, 08/21/2009 - 9:53am.

Do you really want the FD to be a minute or two later if you are having a heart attack or your house is on fire? Or better yet, if not for you, maybe an child has drowned? I'm just asking.

Submitted by cdl305 on Thu, 08/20/2009 - 7:50pm.

You gave a nice discourse that would give someone the warm and fuzzies, but you said nothing other pat your department on the back. I do not disagree that it would be nice to have one fireman and one policeman per every 10 people, but Public Safety and this city must be held to the same standard and mean that I hold my household and business to, and that is to live within our means. Based upon what I have seen from these departments, there is no such thing as enough and your continued requests to increase the debt load on the city and its residents seems to support that belief. Unfortunately, so few people in the city take ANY stand that you and the coucil can continue to lead the poor blind sheep to the shearing. By the way, every statement made is supported by research, well established surveys and reports. Where is your documentation in your ramblings?

More baaaaaaad decisions.

Submitted by skyspy on Thu, 08/20/2009 - 8:54pm.

We don't need the fireworks or the bubble over kedron pool every winter or the tennis center that has never made a dime.

We do need firemen, paramedics, police and maintenance people.

Cut the city manager, get an MBA student to run the city for credit as an internship program, and we could get through this temporary financial downturn.

Submitted by Bonkers on Fri, 08/21/2009 - 4:10am.

Have you ever considered the fact that the majority of the city expenses already comes from the FD, PD, and City hall?

The fireworks is chicken feed---just political. Someone will donate that if asked. Try the Chinese factory.

Agreed on the student intern, but might I suggest an engineer instead of a crooked MBA.

Don't send anyone over the Hudson with a helicopter!

cmc865's picture
Submitted by cmc865 on Thu, 08/20/2009 - 10:42am.

Could you please enlighten cdl305 and explain where PTC ranks among similiar size cities here in GA. Many presentations have been given comparing PTC to EVERY class B city here in GA and how we rank NO WHERE at the top in terms of size of department or personnel. cdl305 pulls his facts from some bag I have never heard of. I have seen you correct many errant bloggers when their facts are WAY off. Please inform the citizenry and cdl305 so he will not scare or deter the average person from his ignorant information.

Submitted by cdl305 on Thu, 08/20/2009 - 5:04pm.

I deal in facts and spend a great deal of my time researching as part of my job. Researching is something I learned while pursuing a PhD. The "ignorant" information comes from an in depth study by the Boston Globe in March of this year that shows NYC spend about $157 per capita for fire/EMS while PTC spends $168 or $185, depending on how you do the calculation. The staffing level information is based upon a national survey by the ICMA (International City/County Management Association)which shows staffing levels of fire/EMS for cities of our size to be 1.48 FTE (full time equivalents), a value of which we are well above. While you may not have heard of the ICMA, I assume you have heard of the Boston Globe.

Don Haddix's picture
Submitted by Don Haddix on Thu, 08/20/2009 - 8:49pm.

The number is not 1.48 FTE, it is 1.84, which equals 66 when we are at 60. Now take the current 19 up to 21, where we are short, and we are at proper manning level.

Plus the per capita depends on if you use means or medium for your formula base.Then you get into jobs compared to jobs and all the rest of looking at thing equitably.

Bottom line is we are not out of line and do remain below average on costs versus service overall.And by ICMA standards we are short two firestations, with one being a true EOC, which we do not have in PTC.

We approved accepting the grant tonight. Hiring to begin the end of October, which places it in fiscal year 2010.

Don Haddix
PTC Councilman
Post 1

Submitted by Bonkers on Fri, 08/21/2009 - 4:04am.

Committing another million plus for ever, huh?
Your 1.48 and 1.84s and equals 66 and 60 take us to 21 from 19 is rail clare!

Per capita mans means or medium formula base. then jobs to jobs equitably.
Still, what has others costs got to do with ours?
Next year they will look at ours and hire 6 more there, then we will hire six more here!

That is the problem now with manning. Pretty soon you will only have one person per fire station and it will be a social event for each neighborhood like Atlanta!

We approved accepting the grant!
Isn't that great Mr. Conservative. You got suckered in for ever to the new total. Try laying off the six next year in a depression.

Submitted by cdl305 on Thu, 08/20/2009 - 10:36pm.

I will make a basic assumption that you have access to 2009 data while I have access to 2006 data, which was in fact 1.48 FTE for cities under 100,000. The thing you neglect here is that FTE is full time equivalents and does count part time employees. So where in your calculations are the 22 part time employees. Understaffed? No. All calculations reported are mean, so I am comparing apples to apples.

Mean, median or mode plays no role in the per capita calculations for cost. Simple math says you take the cost of the the operational and maintenance expenses and divide by the number of residents. That number for PTC is ~$167, now $178 with the vote. This same value is $157 for New York City. The average (mean) for the cities under 100,000 in population in 2007 was $133. Assuming moderate growth, probably about $155 now.

Another bad night for the sheep.

cmc865's picture
Submitted by cmc865 on Fri, 08/21/2009 - 7:07am.

Dr., One big piece of information that you fail to see from your infinite research is that the PCFD also is the EMS provider for our city. When making a comparison you must be comparing apples to apples and not cucumbers to apples as you are doing. My facts come from the Georgia Municipal Association and The NFPA, National Fire Protection Assoc. Many fire departments here in GA do not do both fire and TRANSPORT EMS. Here in PTC we do, I am sure you know that.
Yes, I am very familiar with ICMA, who is sometimes seen as very biased towards city and county managers and budgeting cuts/issues. From me a taxpayer here in the city, governments PRIMARY responsibility is to provide public safety and the appropriate funding needed. This city has done an awesome job being a combination paid/volunteer department for years. We continue to produce high quality volunteers that usually last a couple of years before other surrounding agencies hire them. Why don't you put your energy and writing talents to use and fill out a volunteer application and help your city out.

Submitted by cdl305 on Sat, 08/22/2009 - 9:53am.

This is getting to be a drag, but a couple of points. The ICMA survey, which was just that, a survey, was both fire and EMS. While any organization viewpoint will have bias (including the NFPA) I believe we can grant the professionalism of the survey. The ICMA does not define adequate staffing, it determined mean staffing levels. There is a distinct difference between adequate staffing and ideal staffing. I will grant the professionalism of the Public Safety chiefs, but their goal is not adequate, their goal is ideal. The question then arises whether we can afford ideal. In light of the most severe economic downturn since the depression, the extreme loss of personal wealth and the subsequent significant reduction of tax receipts, it borders on fiscal irresponsibility to spend more cash until we can get a clearer picture on economic recovery. I do not disagree with any of the additions within public safety and I have said this repeatedly. I firmly believe we cannot afford “ideal” under the current circumstances. If we do not grow the staffing wisely, we are going to be in a position, as many other communities have been, where we are eliminating fire/EMS and police, a much less desirable position than remaining at adequate levels. Prior to these additions, the projected tax burden puts us at a 30+% tax increase over the next five years. This current forecast includes SPLOST money, which is not a given. Should this fail in November, we will see a significantly higher millage rate increase at both city and county levels. The addition of $1.1 million in tax burden only creates further challenges.
On another note, the purpose of blogs should be to have intelligent debate. That is often lost on those who post. I could have made derogatory comments as you did by stating that those who can, get an education, and those who don’t, become fireman. But it is just that, derogatory, disrespectful of a dedicated group of people and inappropriate since I know nothing of you. I in fact have a great deal of respect for the profession as my brother served 30 years in EMS. You have no idea whether I am your doctor, your lawyer or your garbage man, but the debate should not include personal attacks.

Another bad day for the sheep!

cmc865's picture
Submitted by cmc865 on Sat, 08/22/2009 - 9:04pm.

Wow. Did you have to get so mean about it. I guess you did. That gave us at the station a pretty good laugh. Yes I too enjoy an intelligent debate. My only frustration is that people bring facts to the table without knowing the real picture or situation. I trust your research methods are good however, come stand in my shoes on the inside and know the FACTS of your local fire and EMS service. Then and only then can you make comparisons and accurate fact based choices. Your facts are correct to some degree but how you make the comparison is where I think you miss the point. No, I dont have a PHD. Only a BS and slowly working on a MS. But I will never regret my choice of my profession and working with a great bunch of EDUCATED, blue collar, professionals. Be safe and more importantly play nice with others.

Don Haddix's picture
Submitted by Don Haddix on Sat, 08/22/2009 - 10:30am.

SPLOST does not fund Fire, Safety, Rec, Administration and most of Public Works. It funds mainly cart paths and road issues.

The grant does not increase our tax burden $1.1 million per year for the next 5 years. It would be in place after five years.

So, let us be honest, if the economy is still in the tank five years from now as badly or worse as it is now fire and police are the last things we would want to touch.

Yes, the economy is going to get worse. I will not argue with that. The question is for how long?

We would need 1.5% if SPLOST and the .250 are not passed and path and road maintenance continue at the present rate. The .250 is an offset that will help us weather the economy by decreasing the annual drain on the Reserve, not stopping it.

I cannot speak for what the County will do. Frankly, PTC took on its own library, Fire, EMS and 911, in the past, because the County refused to give us adequate services. I remember the anger and fighting back then.

It is not guaranteed we will do a 1.25% next year for road and path maintenance. At least not if I have a say. If the citizens say no then we won't, at least for my vote.

Nothing is in stone as to what will happen yet. It depends on if we get SPLOST, the .250 property tax and how the election goes, since I do believe there are some who could potentially get elected that would raise it without asking the citizens and keep building things that would drag PTC down.

I urge you to have a sit down with the Fire Chief. I think you would have a better grasp of what our realities are. But trucks with just one person on board is dangerous to the firefighters and citizens.

Don Haddix
PTC Councilman
Post 1

Submitted by Bonkers on Sat, 08/22/2009 - 1:27pm.

Aren't going to cost taxes after the first year?
Are you going to get another million from D.C.?

You got too many firestations! Can't man that many with all talents.
PTC isn't 20 miles long!

Sit down with the fire chief!!!!!!! I have heard that a lot.
He can't possibly take a different stance than his bosses.

Don Haddix's picture
Submitted by Don Haddix on Sat, 08/22/2009 - 2:24pm.

2 new police and 6 new firefighters.

The grant runs for 5 years, not one.

Don Haddix
PTC Councilman
Post 1

Submitted by Bonkers on Sat, 08/22/2009 - 3:19pm.

How much is the grant we will get per year and what will 8 new positions cost?

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