At Tuesday night’s meeting, the Milpitas City Council agreed to hold off on layoffs to the Milpitas Fire Department, instead utilizing a federal grant to hire six additional firefighters.
The FEMA Safer Grant of $1.8 million would bring the Milpitas Fire Department force from 53 to 59 firefighters, according to the Milpitas Fire Department Budget Task Force.
A discussion of potential layoffs will be postponed until the March 19 City Council meeting.
The decision was made after a heated public hearing, in which residents continued a discussion from last week's meeting. They voiced concerns that Milpitas wouldn’t have an adequate fire force in the midst of a growing population and vacant properties.
Several residents expressed concern that the total compensation of Milpitas firefighters is too high, and should be lowered rather than focusing on paying extra for compensation – the main reason why the Milpitas Fire Department found itself in budgetary overrun.
In a session that stretched on for about 45 minutes, many Milpitas residents shared personal and emotional accounts of when local firefighters saved the lives of their friends, families and neighbors.
“These firefighters don’t just do fires, they do medical,” said one Milpitas resident, saying that Milpitas firefighters saved her daughter when she was seven years old.
Currently, the Milpitas Fire Department receives 2.3 emergency calls per day, according to personnel who spoke at the meetings, bringing the total to 824 calls a year.
“Because of minimum staffing, we have to provide overtime,” said the Milpitas Fire Department Task Force, pointing out that they needed to provide a presence at all four stations.
Before accepting the additional funding, the Fire Department faced an overtime cost of $2 million by the end of the fiscal year.
Currently, the department has a $480,000 budgetary overrun through the first six months of the fiscal year due to absenteeism, and high overtime by fire service employees to cover the mandated staffing ratios