Fairbanks City Council holds special meeting to approve 3 new paramedic staff

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) UPDATE: Coucilmembers Aaron Gibson, Jerry Cleworth, and David Pruhs failed to attend the special council meeting. As such, quorum was not established, and no vote could be taken. An official statement from the City of Fairbanks reads as follows: “Because a quorum was not established and council was unable to hear all of the information about the grant and then provide direction to administration, Mayor Matherly has made the decision to go ahead and apply for the SAFER Grant. Council approval will be required to accept the funds if and when the City is approved to receive them.”

The vote on the resolution to apply for a grant which will get the city 3 new paramedic staff will require a majority vote by the council, which was split on the issue last week. Ties are broken by a vote from the mayor, who proposed the resolution. (KTVF)

Original Story: The Fairbanks City Council held a special meeting Tuesday regarding an application for a grant that would enable the Fairbanks Fire Department to gain 3 paramedic staff.

A resolution to apply for the grant, called a 'SAFER' grant, was brought before the council last week. If applied for and approved, it would supply FFD with 3 new paramedics on the condition that the department is not allowed to reduce its staff should the grant be approved.

Because of this condition, the resolution to apply for the grant was met with contention from council members Jerry Cleworth and David Pruhs, who argued that this placed a future burden on the City. They argued that because FFD already has 4 SAFER grant paramedics on staff whose contracts would expire in February 2021, the City would have to pay for those 4 staff for two years to satisfy SAFER grant criteria.

"Under this scenario it is a bill of $812,000,” said Cleworth during last week’s meeting. “Our bottom line right now, for the city this year, we're about $900,000, looking at a $900,000 deficit this year if we're lucky."

However, acting FFD chief Tod Chambers explained that emergency calls to the city are going up.

"We want to provide the very best service to the citizens of Fairbanks that we can,” said Chambers. “And the idea, if we don't have enough paramedics and we have to stack a call and make people wait, that's hard to understand… and that's the last thing we want to do. We don't want to lower the quality of service to the citizens -- and the way to do that is to make sure we have adequate personnel," he continued.

When calls are "stacked", it means that those calling about emergencies will experience longer wait times before their calls are taken by emergency personnel.

This has led to FFD relying on mutual aid from other fire departments in the city who have complained of an unfair burden being placed on them by the city, causing some of the partners to refuse mutual aid to the city for emergencies.

The vote on the resolution will require a majority by the council, which was split on the issue last week.

Ties are broken by a vote from the mayor, who proposed the resolution.

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