City of Katy Receives $2 Million Grant for New Firefighters

By George Slaughter

The City of Katy has been working to develop a second fire station. Now the city will receive a $2,181,579 federal grant to pay for the firefighters who will staff it.

The grant, known as a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant, is awarded from the Department of Homeland Security. According to the FEMA web site, SAFER was “created to funding directly to five departments and volunteer firefighter interest organizations in order to help them increase the number of trained “front line” firefighters available in their communities.”

The funds will be received over a three-year period, and used for the hiring of 16 new firefighters for the city. Fire Chief Russell Wilson said he gave his electronic signature for accepting the grant on August 4, and he now has six months to hire the 16 firefighters.

Mayor Chuck Brawner said the grant is going to be a tremendous benefit to the city.

“It’s going to help the city improve what’s already a very good fire and EMS service with the addition of 16 additional firefighter/EMS personnel,” Brawner said.

Brawner said the new personnel will be hired starting in September and will be trained and ready when the new fire station opens in about a year.

Pictured from From left to right, Lieutenant Carlos Valladares, Firemedic Edison Saunders, Firefighter Nick Bourdoumas, Firemedic Obayana Allen, Firemedic Kyle Fritsche, Mayor Pro Tem Durran Dowdle, Firefighter, Michael Ondurich, Mayor Chuck Branner, Engineer Operator Shay Theriot, Congressman McCaul, Captain Tom Walters, The Fire Chief Russell Wilson, Firemedic Adam Troncoso, Assistant Fire Chief Kenneth Parker, Engineer Operator Joe Villarreal, Firefighter Christian Kugler, Firemedic Krysten Lerchbacker.

The new station is to be built at Bell Patna Drive and Katy Mills Circle, near Katy Mills Mall. It will be a three-bay, approximately 14,000 square-foot structure.

Brawner said that Congressman Mike McCaul, R-Texas, helped the city with the grant paperwork. McCaul is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

“He was very instrumental,” Brawner said, adding that the city’s first attempt at a SAFER Grant, in 2016, was unsuccessful. Since then, with the addition of Wilson and his team, the city redid the application, which was approved this time.

The grant will cover the cost of personnel, Brawner said, with 75% of costs covered for the first two years and 35% covered for the third year.

“As the city grows and major businesses come online, we’ll have the tax base available to sustain the new personnel at the fire station,” Brawner said. “For our citizens, that’s the best thing about it. The citizens will not have to spend any tax dollars towards the acquiring of 16 personnel for Fire Station 2. Just a little comes from sales tax revenue and we’re real happy about that.”

Wilson did much of the necessary paperwork, but in an interview said the support from Brawner and the city council, as well as the congressman’s office, were very important.

“This was a team effort with the help of a lot of staff,” Wilson said. “It was done with the support of Mayor Brawner, the council, and Congressman McCaul. He (McCaul) gave me a very good letter of support that was sent with the request.”

Wilson said the awarding of the grant was reflective of a “big change” in the fire department.

“Something like this doesn’t happen without strong teamwork, and that probably makes me prouder than anything, to see the cultural change within the department,” Wilson said. “It shows how our department has really come together.”

Wilson described the grant as, ”a very huge deal, no doubt…we are very fortunate to receive this grant, and I can’t say enough about that.”

McCaul said he was proud to see the city’s efforts rewarded with the awarding of the grant.