By Megan Hansen
Nisqually Valley News
With four firefighter positions on the chopping block, Southeast Thurston Fire Authority is seeking different ways to breathe life back into its budget.
Four layoff notices were handed out last month. These are the same notices given last fall.
The department is hoping to retain those jobs through a federal grant program.
The department has applied for Staffing For Adequate and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants.
The grant covers a firefighter position 100 percent, including benefits for two years.
Firefighters with layoff notices are a higher priority to receive funding, said Mark King, interim chief for Southeast Thurston. There is a better chance of securing funding by giving the notices.
SAFER grants will start being awarded in March and the firefighters’ layoff notices go into affect April 30.
Tax collection is also a big factor on keeping those positions.
King said the department is waiting to see the first quarter tax collection rate.
If SAFER grants aren’t secured and tax collection rates decrease, positions will have to be cut.
If layoffs happen, the department could find itself with more work and cost dealing with unions.
“Laying off is the absolute last thing we want to do,” King said. “The legal costs could outweigh the savings.”
It would also affect the department’s ability to staff the Rainier Fire Station.
“(But) I don’t know to what extent yet.”