(BIVN) – The Hawaii County Fire Department, led by Chief Darren Rosario, went before the Hawaii County Council Finance Committee for an annual review as the council considers approving a budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
In public testimony before the council, Robert Becker, the chair of the Hawaii County Fire Commission, summarized the challenges and needs of the fire department.
“During the period from 2010 to 2017, the county population increased by 8.3% percent,” Becker said. “The department’s emergency call volume increased 20.6% percent. During this time, salary increases mandated by collective bargaining agreements have been included in available funding, although the related associated costs for contract-required over time has not been matched, resulting in an overall lowering of actual funds available for salary. Funding for non-salary cost has also decreased significantly over this 2010 to 2017 period.”
“Over 85% percent of the department’s budget goes to salary costs, leaving very little discretion within the internal departmental budget process,” Becker said. “If it weren’t for grants that the department actively pursues and is awarded, the department’s ability to safely and efficiently serve the public would be severely hampered.”
Becker also listed four of the department’s budget requests:
- Increased funding to staff Hawaiian Paradise Park, Oceanview, Waikoloa and Laupahoehoe fire stations to meet the National Fire Protection Administration Association minimum staffing requirements for the safety of the public and the firefighters.
- Support the department vehicle replacement initiative by providing funding for for the innovative lease purchase replacement apparatus program.
- Support the funding request for required Hazardous Materials Response and Safety Equipment Training and Ocean Safety Division.
- Support the department’s request to create and fund five additional fire prevention inspector one positions to meet National Fire Protection Association 1730 Standard Workload and Inspection Requirements, created by increasing
businesses in Hawaii County.
“These funding requests are very important for the department to meet the needs of an expanding population,” Becker concluded, “and an evolving prevention and response profile.”
“They aren’t fluff. Nobody likes to pay taxes but public safety has to be the number one budget priority. Public safety has to be funded at a level that provides the superior service the public deserves. Those of us who have spent a lifetime in public service serve the community to the best of our ability each and every day. For the department’s firefighters to perform safely, efficiently, each and every day, they need the proper tools and staffing,” Becker said.