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Mission receives SAFER grant for nine additional firefighters

At a special meeting held last Friday, the City of Mission accepted the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The federal grant is worth $1,022,828, and it will be utilized to hire nine new firefighters for Mission. This is the first time the city has received the SAFER grant with the fire department in mind, Mission has received it for the police department in the past.

City of Mission logoMayor Armando O’caña and City Manager Martin Garza were excited to see how the grant will impact and encourage city growth.

“We really appreciate the federal government boosting us up,” O’caña said. “We want to increase the firefighters, so it’s a win-win situation for everybody.”

The grant comes in a four-year plan, with the first two years of additional service members being funded 75 percent by a federal share and 25 percent by the local share. It will cost the federal government $414,660 and the remaining $138,219 will come from local city share funds.

In year three of the plan, 35 percent of the funds will come from the federal level ($359,371) and 65 percent will come from Mission ($193,508). Eventually, the city will be equipped to take on 100 percent of the costs.

“At the end we’ll have to sustain it, but we were going to do that anyway,” O’caña said. “It’s savings for the taxpayers in two and a half years.”

The grant does not include the costs of benefits and equipment.

“This year be budgeted $182,000 that encompasses the nine firefighters pay,” Garza said. “But that also includes their protective gear to be able to conduct daily operations and their responsibilities.”

The city has already met with Fire Chief Gilbert Sanchez and have given him the green light to begin the hiring process for the nine new firefighters.

“We are civil servants, there’s already a pre-list in place,” O’caña said. “We already have a list to select from.”

The SAFER grant is competitive, and offered every two years.

“We have been constantly applying for it,” O’caña said. “We finally hit it. It is extremely important, as far as keeping up with city growth and keep us from raising taxes.”

During the special meeting, city council also froze the tax rate for Mission at 0.4862, and adopted the annual budget for fiscal year 2018-2019.

“In my campaign platform, I was going to freeze the tax rate,” O’caña said, referring to his first 100 day plan. “Thanks to the city council, who felt the same way, that it’s the best thing for the city not to lower taxes and not to raise taxes.”

The budget for Mission can be accessed at the city website.

City council passed four ordinances recognizing classified positions, base salaries and incentive packages for both the fire and police departments. Once the budget is approved, the city must ratify and verify that the base salaries and incentives that were already in the package either remain the same or identified in a new ordinance if any changes were made.

“We’re not making any changes right now,” O’caña said.

“Except for the one deputy fire chief position that was added to the classified positions,” Garza added. “We had three this past year, and we added one, to total four.”

The nine new firefighters were included in the ordinance, so the city now employs 33 firefighters in the civil service division.

A workshop addressing drainage issues in the city will take place at city hall Oct. 1 at 4 p.m. The Hidalgo County Drainage District is proposing a bond election, to be held in November, and the workshop will include a presentation by Raul Sesin from the drainage district.

“They’re going throughout the county of Hidalgo and talking to city councils and doing presentations,” Garza said. “We went ahead and set up a meeting, and the purpose of that workshop is to give the county the opportunity to explain the bond election – what does is consist of, how does it affect our Mission residents, how much they’re looking to introduce and propose and what areas of Mission will be effected, and by that I mean improvements on drainage, if in case that bond issuance does take place.”

Garza said the workshop is an opportunity for the public to come and see what is happening and educate themselves so they can be exactly aware of what they’re voting for or against.

National Night Out has been rescheduled for Thurs., Oct. 4 at Leo Peña Placita Park, located at the corner of Business 83 and Conway Avenue. A ribbon cutting for the newly-renovated park will be held that same morning.

“We’re very pleased with the project,” Garza said. “We’re very pleased with the construction of the renovation, and we’re excited to share that with the general public.”

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