By MIKE MORRIS
Revenue from a new tax on Angels Camp hotel rooms will pay to hire two full-time firefighters a first for the city's fire department, which has relied solely on volunteers and part-time help for the past 80 years.
The transient occupancy tax, a 4 percent increase in the tax on hotel and motel rooms, went into effect at the beginning of the month. Approved in May, the tax will raise about $270,000 a year and be divided among three categories: roads, emergency services and the promotion of tourism in the area.
Emergency services' share will be used to bring full-time firefighters to Angels Camp's fire department, Chief Scott Kenley said.
"There's obviously a need when you're an all-volunteer fire department," Kenley said. "Volunteers get involved because they want to be part of a group and the camaraderie of being a firefighter. It's quite taxing on volunteers to do all of the maintenance on equipment and make sure everything's working."
With its operating budget of $230,000 recently approved for the addition of the two positions, the department should have the new firefighters on board by October.
Kenley hasn't started the interview process yet, but is researching methods by which the department can hire employees.
He said within the coming weeks, the positions will be advertised in local newspapers and at fire colleges.
Six part-time firefighters were hired by the department in January. A majority of them have expressed interest in the positions, Kenley said.
Since the beginning of the month, the department has had two part-time employees working 10 hours per day, seven days a week.
The full-time firefighters are budgeted to work 50 hours a week at $10 per hour plus benefits. They would check all equipment, maintain the station and train volunteers, Kenley said.
"So it helps us focus more on the volunteers' training," he said. "It makes them more skilled and also benefits the citizens by having someone here to respond."