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Granite Shoals budgets for additional part-time firefighters

Granite Shoals Fire Rescue training

Granite Shoals Fire Rescue firefighters at training exercise on Lake LBJ. Courtesy photo

The city of Granite Shoals has budgeted an extra $144,022 this year to hire six part-time firefighters, but leaders are looking for a little help to cover the costs.

The funding will allow the fire department to assign three people per each eight-hour shift instead of the current two, according to Granite Shoals Fire Chief Austin Stanphill. He requested the additional staffing during the budget process earlier this year. The department has firefighters on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Mayor Pro-Tem Jim Davant said city leaders decided to go with part-time positions instead of full-time spots to save money in benefits. 

Currently, Granite Shoals Fire Rescue employs seven full-time firefighters, including the chief and assistant chief, and six part-time ones. 

Davant said more firefighters are needed considering the large territory and overall property value Granite Shoals Fire Rescue protects. The department covers almost 30 square miles and $1.3 billion in property. Of that, the city accounts for about 5 square miles and $750 million in assessed property values. 

The city also has fire service contracts with Highland Haven and Burnet County Emergency Services District No. 3. Its Highland Haven coverage is half a square mile and $200 million in assessed values; for ESD No. 3, it is 24 square miles and about $350 million in property values.

Granite Shoals leaders would like those two entities to help cover the salaries and related costs of the six new part-time positions.

The city already included the additional funding in the 2020-21 fiscal year budget. In total, Granite Shoals Fire Rescue would receive $863,449. The City Council is scheduled to vote on the budget and proposed property tax rate at its Sept. 8 meeting.

The city’s five-year contract with Highland Haven is finishing its third year and is based on Granite Shoals Fire Rescue having two firefighters per shift. Under the current agreement, Highland Haven will pay Granite Shoals $80,000 in year three followed by $82,500 and $85,000 in years four and five. 

Granite Shoals Fire Chief Austin Stanphill attended the Highland Haven City Council meeting Aug. 25 to advise councilors of Granite Shoals’ plans to add a third firefighter per shift.

“If three (firefighters respond to a fire) instead of two, that’s not free,” Davant said.

Currently, the city and ESD No. 3 have a fire service agreement through Sept. 30, 2023. This year’s funding is $191,000. The amount goes up by $5,000 a year through the end of the agreement.

Granite Shoals Mayor Carl Brugger sent ESD No. 3 President Steve Tatom a letter outlining the city’s plan to add a firefighter per shift, the associated costs, and a request for more funding to “help enable the city to meet our mutual (Granite Shoals Fire Rescue) staffing goal.”

City leaders hope to hear back from ESD No. 3 before a public hearing on the Granite Shoals budget on Sept. 3. The councilors will then consider approving the budget and tax rate the following week.

Granite Shoals is already accepting applications for four of the six part-time firefighter positions