The Federal Emergency Management Agency grant will pay for the salaries and benefits of 12 firefighters over the next three years. (Austin Galbraith/WUFT)

Putnam County Fire Department Accepts $2.3 Million Grant

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The federal government has given Putnam County a much needed public safety funding boost.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded Putnam County a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant that will pay for the salaries and benefits of exactly 12 firefighters over the next three years.

This gives the Putnam County Fire Department over $786,000 per year to make some needed changes.

How did Putnam County apply for and receive this substantial amount of money?

Paul Flateau is in his 25th year working for the county and currently the interim fire chief. He described their strategy.

“I worked with the HR department and a team of us came up with the narratives and research,” he said. “Also, a lot of praying.”

This grant not only saves valuable money for Putnam County, a rural north Florida county that in 2019 reported its total public safety budget as just over $35 million, but it also helps property owners. Property insurance rates should decrease as the fire department makes improvements.

The Insurance Services Office (ISO) is an independent organization that scores fire departments based on their standards to determine property insurance costs. Putnam County currently has nine sections out of 19 fire stations at an ISO rating of 10 on a scale of 1 through 10, with 1 having the lowest property insurance prices.

Having a better staffed fire department improves that ISO rating.

Flateau said the fire department will use the grant to keep expanding fire suppression and leadership, sustain 24/7 fire protection, and secure an ISO rating of 7 or lower for every section of the county.

“We’ve already accepted the grant and we’re looking to hire the 12 Firefighters within the next 120-180 days,” said J.R. Grimes, the former Chief and current executive director of public safety.

The county has three months to hire the 12 new firefighters under the terms of the grant. The hiring process begins Thursday.

About Austin Galbraith

Austin is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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