The city of Fulton has fallen on tough times after millions of dollars of industry exited in waves over the years.
Once pegged as the “City with a Future” — city leaders are now looking at what options they have to turn things around.
Fulton Mayor Ronald Woodward Sr. says the city has lost “major industries which were a stabilizing part of the city for years.”
Over the past few years, the budget has been slashed to the bare minimum throughout city’s departments.
For instance, the Public Works Department staff was cut in half and several full-time positions were made part time to save money.
“We lost a ton of money in salaries in the community. Nestle’s alone was 22 million a year — Birds Eye was 13 [million],” Woodward explained. “Then we lost all the property taxes that go with them.”
Along with Woodward, Fulton Assistant Fire Chief David Eiffe knows all too well the struggle that the small city’s nearly 12,000 residents face.
The fire department employs 34 career firefighters. The department’s tight budget only allows about 3 percent for equipment and maintenance.
Eiffe says the crew has come to rely heavily on FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program to replace and upgrade its equipment.
The department has been applying for FGA funding for the last 14 years and has been successful twice.
One grant allowed the department to acquire new self-contained breathing apparatuses for firefighters.
The most recent award Fulton received in 2012 helped the department purchase a new engine — that came in at $350,000.
Right now the department has two ladder trucks that are both more than 25 years old.
One is completely inoperable — the second one, is facing mechanical issues of its own, forcing these firefighters to change the way they respond to calls.
“This would move to a backup piece more, and only run out when it’s necessary,” Eiffe explained. “You could justify an engine running out on calls that don’t require an elevated platform.”
On average, Eiffe says the department responds to more than 2,200 calls and about 75 percent of them are medical-based.
In the most recent grant narrative Eiffe submitted to the FGA
“If we’re able to apply and do some homework and reach out and try and get these grants, it actually helps the city and the taxpayers,” Eiffe said. “Along with increasing our safety and our ability to perform our jobs better because of the equipment.”
Eiffe says he has about $1 million in grant applications out in hopes that even one will be accepted and awarded.