By: Sydni Eure
May 23, 2023
Jamestown City Council suspends hiring freeze and begins search for eight new firefighters to begin this November
JAMESTOWN, N.Y. (WKBW) — After several months of deliberations and amendments, the Jamestown City Council has voted in favor of the resolution to suspend the hiring freeze. This means they will no be adding 8 new positions to the Jamestown Fire Department. The unanimous decision to vote in favor of the resolution seemed to come as a relief to several community members in attendance as they erupted in applause at the conclusion of the vote.
”I think it’s great,” President of Jamestown Professional Firefighters Local 137 Ben McLaughlin said. “It’s finally taking steps toward meeting the national standard for minimum staffing. Something we’ve been advocating for.”
Matthew Coon, Jamestown Deputy Fire Chief said they’re hoping the additional staff will help drive down the reliance on the five surrounding volunteer agencies. ”I’m quite certain that our membership will be thrilled to bring on additional personnel,” Coon said. “Our call volume has increased each year, especially over the last decade.”
The $1.8 million SAFER grant only allows for a period up to three years which could lead to layoffs down the line. However, officials say the focus is what they can do to help right away.
“Well certainly there’s a concern with what happens after three years but the reality is the city needs those firefighters now,” Mayor Eddie Sundquist said.
”The anomaly out there that this council doesn’t care about public safety is not true,” Council Member At-Large Kim Ecklund said. “They care very deeply. They would love to give them eight or 16 but ultimately we have to do our due-diligence as a city as a whole and represent every tax payer in the city.”
Coon said they’ll begin the search for qualified hires that could be on staff before the end of the year. ”Our intent would be to send them to the New York State fire academy and depending on the academy’s availability for seating in the class we hope to have them trained and on board by Thanksgiving,” Coon said.