Mount Prospect gets $1.3M grant to hire firefighters, but then what?

Mount Prospect's fire department could have its staffing restored to 2010 levels, thanks to a $1.3 million federal grant that would allow the village to hire six additional full-time firefighters.

But now village officials face the challenge of paying for the new hires once the two-year grant ends.

At Tuesday's joint meeting of the village board and the finance commission, Mayor Arlene Juracek and trustees gave Fire Chief John Malcolm the signal to accept the grant. A formal resolution is expected at an upcoming village board meeting.

Although the grant brings benefits, it also poses challenges, as outlined by Acting Village Manager David Strahl.

At the end of the grant period, the full cost of the additional personnel will amount to $922,000 during 2018.

Strahl suggested a cocktail of funding options for 2018, including pre-funding through the property tax, using reserves, boosting ambulance fees, and increasing the business license fee from $75 to a minimum of $100, with the fee based on overall square footage, to more accurately reflect the cost of a fire inspection.

Additional revenue could be generated by charging for responding to a fire, something that is done on the West Coast, although no departments in the immediate area do so, he said.

"We're looking at trying to put a number of pieces together, so when that million dollars comes due, it's not a million dollars all at once," Strahl said. "So that softens the blow going forward.

"But the caution is to only use the reserves for a couple of years. Then we can look at the revenues at that point," he added.

Besides providing funding for six more firefighters, the grant would allow the department to promote three current firefighters to the rank of lieutenant and reinstate Engine 13. That engine, based out of downtown Station 13, was put out of commission in 2011 as a result of budget cuts.

With Engine 13 out of service, the department has been using a tower unit to respond to routine calls, resulting in wear and tear on the vehicle, Malcolm said.

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