Mineral Wells Area News

City Council Meeting Addresses Additional Firefighter Staffing Needs, Funds for Sewer and Parks Improvements and Delays Extended Alcohol Sales Decision

Photo By Ann Powers

City Council Meeting Addresses Additional Firefighter Staffing Needs, Funds for Sewer and Parks Improvements and Delays Extended Alcohol Sales Decision
January 21
20:33 2022

By Ann Powers-Staff Reporter

Grant applications for much-needed additional firefighters, $3.6 million in recovery funds to benefit local sewer service and parks, and another delay on the extended alcohol sales decision were key topics at the Mineral Wells City Council Meeting, Jan. 18.

SAFER Grant Application Moves Forward for Additional Firefighters
The understaffed Mineral Wells Fire/EMS department may be hiring nine new firefighters within the year if approved for a $2 million Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant.

The Mineral Wells City Council voted unanimously to give Fire/EMS Chief Ryan Dunn the green light in applying for the federal funds.

Fire/EMS Chief Ryan Dunn explains the dire need for additional personnel within his department to help keep Mineral Wells safe during the City Council meeting, Jan. 18. Photo by Ann Powers

If approved, the grant would provide three years of full funding for nine firefighters, or three per shift.  The city would be responsible for funding those positions for two more years under grant stipulations. Dunn said that amount equals about $640,000 per year. The funds cover salaries, benefits, uniforms, facility accommodations and more.  

Dunn said the additional personnel is sorely needed to ensure public safety. 

“We run a tremendous amount of calls for the small town that we are and we are extremely understaffed,” Dunn said. “When we are on fire calls, we are not on the ambulance. When we are on EMS calls, we are not on the fire trucks.”

Call response rates have spiked over recent years. The department answered 2,818 calls in 2019, compared to 3,698 in 2021, Dunn said in an email statement to the Mineral Wells News.  

“With the addition of the staff, the SAFER grant will prove a reassurance that there will be someone responding to your emergency,” he said. “They will also be able to respond in a timely manner that the citizens of Mineral Wells expect from our department.” 

Councilman Brian Shoemaker raised concerns about how the City would pay the $640,000 per year for the added firefighters after the federal funds run out.  

“My question is, after three years how do we pay for $640,000 a year?” he asked during the Jan. 18 Council meeting. 

Dunn said he expects additional tax revenue forecasted with Mineral Wells economic development will meet the requirements.  

“With 500 new homes coming in and big box business to support sales tax, I think the growth is going to fuel our economy,” he said in a phone interview with the Mineral Wells Area News. “Which is going to pay for our firefighters.” 

Dunn added the application process should take about eight months.  If the SAFER grant is approved, the Fire/EMS department will begin recruiting candidates before the year’s end.  

State & Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to Benefit Local Sewer Services and Parks
Mineral Wells’ Southeast Park and sewer services are slated for improvements thanks to $3.6 million Mineral Wells will be receiving from the Coronavirus State & Local Fiscal Recovery Funds Final Rule, according to an update Finance Director Jason Breisch gave to City Council, Jan. 18.

The Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, a part of the American Rescue Plan, delivers $350 billion to state, local, and Tribal governments nationwide to aid their response to and recovery from the COVID-19 public health emergency, according to the U.S. Department of Treasury website. The program ensures governments have resources needed to:• Fight the pandemic and support families and businesses grappling with public health and economic impacts.• Preserve vital public services, even amid decreases in revenue.• Build a strong, resilient and equitable recovery by making investments supporting long-term growth and opportunity.

The Final Rule allows for broader range of allowable expenditures and greater simplicity in the program, than the earlier Interim Rule, published May 2021. 

“It’s going to allow us more eligible uses (of the money) and streamline our reporting,” Breisch explained. “We’re able to have a lot more options. We won’t have to jump through as many administrative hoops.”  

The first half of those funds, $1.88 million, was delivered on Aug. 23, 2021.  The remaining $1.88 is scheduled for an Aug. 23, 2022, payment. The Final Rule takes effect on April 1 and Mineral Wells has until 2026 to use the $3.6 million it’s been awarded, Breisch added.  

Extended Alcohol Sales Decision Delayed
Clubs in Mineral Wells will have to wait, once again, to see if they will be allowed to sell drinks an extra hour under an ordinance the City Council planned to discuss at its recentmeeting, but voted to postpone until budget talks take place in May.

Previously, Council members addressed the extended sales at their Nov. 2, 2021 meeting, then tabled the item until the Jan. 18 meeting after the holiday season.  During earlier review of the ordinance, city officials weighed the benefits to local drinking establishments with public safety repercussions of having an extra hour of alcohol consumption. 

Police Chief and Interim City Manager Dean Sullivan said moving the discussion closer to the City’s budget talks in May makes sense.  

“It has some potential budgeting impact,” he said. “It could increase sales and sales taxes, or it could have some impact on public safety service demands.”

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