The South Sioux City City Council voted 5-2 Monday, Jan. 8, to appoint five new firefighters which ultimately sets in stone the acceptance of a FEMA grant fire chief Clint Merithew applied for last year. Council members Bruce Davis and Oscar Gomez recorded the two nay votes.
Merithew applied for a FEMA grant in January 2017 that would cover 75-percent of the new staff's salaries for the first two years and 25-percent for the year after. The base salary for a firefighter is $42,000 and $47,000 for a paramedic.
Hiring five additional firefighters ensures three firefighters are on staff at all times.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), South Sioux City should have a minimum of five firefighters responding immediately to house fires, a standard which has never been met in 2017 due to low staffing.
Opinions were sharply divided among the council members.
“We made a huge financial decision that I don't think was in the best interest of our city,” said Davis. “We all want public safety but this is about the process.”
Davis was speaking in reference to how the grant was brought forward and described to the council. He added that he would have rather added firefighters incrementally as opposed to all at once.
“I stand firm on this,” countered Councilman John Sanders. “I would vote for it again tomorrow.”