When grant money goes, are jobs lost too?

By Lauren Payne - bio | email feedback

Jonesboro, AR (KAIT) -- "We looked at it from a dollars and cents approach and said at the end of the grant period do we think we can do that," said Paragould Mayor, Mike Gaskill.

It's that conservative thought process and long term planning that makes Gaskill confident the city will be able to retain the three new firefighters they hire even after the grant money used to hire them runs out.

"We know that the money is going to run out and if we thought we couldn't do it, we wouldn't do it because we know the money is just temporary," said Gaskill.

Gaskill says the city will begin paying the salaries in full after five years.  He says while they would like to hire more, he wanted to be sure, barring a catastrophe, they could keep the ones they do get.

"When the economy turns back around and we start showing growth again, that our revenue source will pick up enough to where we'll be able to keep those three," said Gaskill.

"The cases of this grant, the funding is for a period of 3 years, which will mean we'll have to fund that additional 4th year," said Jonesboro Police Chief, Mike Yates.

That's funding for 7 additional police officers the Jonesboro Police Department will hire.

"Do you think we won't need an additional 7 police officers between now and four years from now?  Well the answer almost certainly is yes we will so why not allow the stimulus and recovery money through the COPS program to pay for them for that time period--so it works out in our best interest," said Yates.

Yates says while it's always possible, they don't anticipate problems paying when the grant money runs out after three years.

"Between the census, growth, economic opportunities for bringing industry in, sales tax growth, different things like that, I think we're going to be in good shape--especially compared to other places," said Yates.

For Mike Gaskill, he says he wants the new hires to know the city is committed to them--not only by federal obligations, but moral obligations as well.

"We want to make sure that the people that are hired realize that we are going to keep them regardless of what the federal regulations are," said Gaskill.

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