CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – Horry County Fire Rescue will be allowed to apply for a federal grant that could help the department hire 30 more firefighters.
HCFR will finally apply for the SAFER grant from FEMA, which aims to help communities hire more firefighters.
If it’s accepted, FEMA would give Horry County millions of dollars, but that money only lasts for a few years.
“I don’t want a tax increase and if we can find the money, we’re not going to raise any taxes,” said Danny Hardee, a county council member representing Green Sea.
Horry County Council is allowing HCFR to apply for a FEMA grant to hire 30 more firefighters. It’s part of a FEMA grant program called SAFER, which stands for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response.
If the application is accepted, HCFR’s plan would cost up to $6,527,456.85. The three-year SAFER grant would cover up to $3,728,046. The grant would cover 75 percent of the costs for the 30 firefighters in years one and two, decreasing to 35 percent in year three.
The county would pay the remaining $2,799,410.85 over the three-year SAFER grant. The county would pay 100 percent of the costs for the 30 firefighters by year four.
A millage increase was proposed, but council unanimously decided Tuesday to instead use hospitality tax money to pay the county’s split.
“We need to see if there’s any other avenues available to us and this might be one of them to help pay for the things that we need to deliver service,” said Dennis DiSabato, a council member representing Myrtle Beach.
SAFER’s goal is to maintain or increase the number of “front line” firefighters in communities.
Council members said the county should apply for the grant, for which is the application is due by Friday, since more firefighters will be needed as the population grows.
“Through normal growth without the grant, we’re still going to have to be hiring and adding on,” said Al Allen, a council member representing Aynor. “If we can get the feds to help pay for it, why not try that route?”
HCFR says it takes 10 to 12 months to find out if the application has been accepted and if it is, the firefighters would start working about six months later.