HUNTSVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Huntsville City Council members that are part of the budget committee approved the addition of three new, full-time employees at a meeting last week regarding the 2022 budget.

If approved by the full council, a new police officer and two firefighters could be hired by March.

The addition of paid firefighters would be a first for the city, establishing a new department.

The new hires in the fire department would work daytime shifts Monday-Friday, with a goal of eventually filling a minimum of six positions, according to Huntsville Volunteer Fire Department Chief Kevin Shinn.

The City of Huntsville has been protected by volunteer firefighters for decades and will continue to need them long into the future. But, like rural communities across the nation, there are fewer and fewer people willing and able to volunteer to give of their time and risk their lives to protect others. There are times during the work week when the City of Huntsville has no fire protection.

Currently, we have a roster of 19 firefighters with only about 10 who are active in training and responding to calls. Nearly all of them have occupations that have them working outside the county during the workday. Adding two career firefighters to our ranks will offer some daytime coverage to solve that problem. It is a beginning

Huntsville Volunteer Fire Department Chief Kevin Shinn

Budget committee members also approved the hiring of an additional police officer, which will bring the total number of officers to nine, according to Police Chief Todd Thomas.