The Hesperia City Council discovered new firefighters could be in uniform by July 2013 if the city receives a $1.2 million federal grant that staff previously applied for.
The council, minus an absent Councilman Bill Leonard, unanimously approved the second step of the grant application process during the Sept. 4 meeting.
The last-minute business item, which arrived by email from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was a result of a grant application to the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grants (SAFER) Program. SAFER was created to provide funds directly to fire departments and volunteer firefighter interest organizations to help them increase the number of trained, "front line" firefighters available in their communities.
FEMA requested a letter of commitment, asking the Hesperia Fire Protection District and the council to retain full staffing levels for two years should they receive the grant.
"What we are trying to do is hire the nine positions that were laid off in January," said Georgia Graham, a management analyst with the city. "This program presented itself, and we submitted an application."
After voters soundly rejected the $85 parcel tax proposed through Measure F to support fire services in July 2011, the city cut $1.4 million from the fire district's budget — the equivalent of nine full-time firefighters. The cuts shaved $752,000 off the district's $9.2 million budget for this fiscal year, which began on July 1.
Mayor Russ Blewett said he discussed the grant program during a recent trip to Washington, D.C., where he visited officials representing Sen. Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Rep. Jerry Lewis and FEMA.
"I believe it was a strong application, and they wouldn't be asking for this if it wasn't something hopeful," Graham said.
City officials didn't respond to a request about next steps for the grant, including when Hesperia will hear if it landed the funds.
The next City Council Meeting is scheduled for Sept. 18 at 6:30 p.m. The full agenda and meeting can be viewed online at ca-hesperia.civicplus.com.
Rene De La Cruz may be reached at MrReneDeLaCruz@gmail.com.