Photo Credit: Keith Sullivan, taken from Hampton Firefighters & Fire Officers Facebook page.
Shall the Town of Hampton vote to raise and appropriate the sum of $414,616 for the purpose of employing 4 additional full time Fire Fighter/EMT’s for the Hampton Fire Department, over and above those positions funded by the 2019 operating budget, and to authorize the Board of Selectmen to apply for, contract for, accept and expend Federal Homeland Security SAFER funding, estimated to equal $276,405 to be applied against said appropriation. The cost in year two is estimated to be $390,062 with Federal funding estimated to be $290,446, and in year three the total cost is $397,622 with Federal funding estimated to be $138,187. Federal SAFER grants pay for salary and benefits. This article shall be null and void if the Federal funding is not approved or received? (Majority vote required).
What it means: The FEMA SAFER Grant would allow the Town of Hampton to hire firefighters with a government subsidy equaling 75% or wages and benefits for the first two years and 35% in the third year. Hampton would be responsible for 25%, 25% and 65% of the wages and benefits through the three-year grant cycle. After the third year, the Town would be responsible for the full cost of the four Firefighters. The Warrant Article factors into the first year all costs associated with hiring that are not covered by the grant, including medical clearance, background check, driving record check and gear costs. If this Article passes, the Town of Hampton will hire four additional Firefighters/ EMT’s. That would bring each shift from the current nine Firefighter/EMT’s to ten.
Those in favor say: Since 2012, Hampton has added 1.4 million square feet of real estate. There are fifteen new roads, with 102 new homes. Condos have been built where there once stood seasonal studio motels. With more and larger-square-footage structures being built, more first responders are needed to respond safely to a given emergency. Even with the approval of this Article, Hampton will still be five firefighters below national standards for response to a residential structure fire – and that is when no one is out due to injury or illness. The national standard calls for 15 Firefighters on the initial residential response. The Town has also added several commercial structures – a courthouse, a memory-care facility, a hotel and a trade school to name a few. Having ten Firefighters per shift will mean two officers and eight firefighters. It will allow Hampton to operate two staffed ambulances and will make every response to a fire safer for the Firefighters and the community.
The Department has been seeking the addition of 4 Firefighters since 2005 when 4 firefighters were laid off due to a budgetary crisis arising from a default budget. The grant allows the Town to do this in a gradual way for taxpayer purposes.
Those against say: Voters need to be able to examine the personnel needs and evaluate that independent of the grant opportunity. One speaker at Deliberative Session felt that the grant was a “camouflage”. Another speaker was concerned about the longer-term impact on the budget when the grant expires.
Fiscal impact: The 2019 cost of $138,187 would cost the average Hampton property owner about $32.41 assuming the Article passes and the grant is subsequently forthcoming. No Firefighters will be hired if the grant is not secured. In the long run, the Article would cost $49.00 per year for a home valued at $405,000 once the grant has expired. (Note: The first year cost includes Firefighter gear (10 year life) and all hiring costs. The majority of those costs would not need to be repeated in subsequent years.)