Lake County Commissioner Jimmy Conner opposed the idea of applying for grant money to hire more firefighters at Tuesday’s meeting, but after a debate among the council members, he was persuaded to change his vote.

The question before the board was to apply for the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant money, which would go toward hiring 15 new firefighters in 2017. The grant would be for $876,390 in 2017, $898,590 in 2018 and after that, the county would have to fund all positions adequately.

Conner said he didn’t think the county needed that many new firefighters.

“Maybe six new firefighters,” he said. “I think they do fine with the resources they have now.”

Conner said the massive increase in size would leave the county open to trouble if something bad financially happened before they were required to start paying for the larger department themselves.

Commissioner Leslie Campione, who lives in an unincorporated area of the county, said the insufficient number of firefighters available there justified an increase.

“I think some people live in a false sense of security,” she said. “We need to get the department to the level where it needs to be, to provide services that people already think they have.”

She said people assume they’re going to get a response on time if they need firefighters, but that it might not be the case in some rural areas of Lake County.

Conner listened to Campione’s words and those of County Public Safety Director John Jolliff, who said there was a great need for new firefighters. Then, he decided to change his vote and vote for the grant. The resolution passed unanimously.

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