HUTTO, Texas (KXAN) — A federal grant is allowing Hutto Fire Rescue to add an additional six firefighters to its overall staff.
The Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) grant is for a two-year time period. The grant will allow the department to have a total of eight firefighters, and achieve 24-hour staffing in a city that has grown by more than 50 percent in the past five years.
“There is a sense of relief for the residents that we are putting more firefighters on the scene,” said Hutto Fire Chief Scott Kerwood. “There is a sense of relief for me as how I feel about the firefighters, there is more of them to work together.”
Chief Kerwood explains that growth has put an increased demand on the department. He says Hutto is the seventh fastest growing small city in the United States.
“It makes it a lot quicker and we are serving the community quicker,” said firefighter Ivan Valenzuela who has had to carry an extra load. “The two extra guys would give us tremendous help and relief.”
The grant is good for two years and covers the new firefighters salaries and benefits. The Emergency Services District plans on picking up the bill afterwards.
In May, Hutto residents approved increasing the sales and use tax to 8.25 percent to help enhance fire protection for Williamson E.S.D. #3 (Hutto Fire). The department estimates the additional sales tax will bring in about $100,000 a year.
“The SAFER grants are imperative to smaller and growing departments to fill the needs of their communities,” said Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, who helped secure the grant for the department. “This grant will create jobs, boost the Hutto economy, and increase the safety of the entire Hutto community.”
The department plans to post and fill the positions as soon as possible. After the grant runs out, Kerwood says the E.S.D. will adjust the budget to maintain the additional positions.