By Ed Runyan
The Warren Fire Department’s attempt to receive a second $5 million grant to keep its staffing level at about 75 firefighters has been rejected, meaning layoffs will occur after May 26, Mayor Doug Franklin said.
The city learned last week it won’t get another Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The department received one in November 2010 that expired in November 2012, but the government extended it until May 26 of this year because about $2.5 million of the $5 million remained unspent.
Six months is the maximum time the grant can be extended, Warren Fire Chief Ken Nussle has said.
Franklin said Thursday that without the grant, there’s “going to be a staff reduction” in the department.
The city will apply for the next SAFER grant available, but he doesn’t think that will prevent the city from laying off some current staff.
Franklin said he has been in contact with U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-13th, and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown “to learn more about the denial and to get a better understanding of how to strengthen our next application.”
Franklin said he’s going to “do all I can” to save as many firefighter jobs as possible, but he was not willing to commit to a number.
He said other business decisions that have been announced in recent months will add to the challenge the city faces, such as the closing of the former RG Steel mill and the announced closing of the General Electric Ohio Lamp Plant in 2014.
“I have a lot of confidence we’ll be able to protect our citizens with a diminished staff,” Franklin said.
The 2010 grant increased the number of Warren firefighters from 51 to nearly 75 by allowing the city to bring 10 firefighters back from layoff and hire 14 more.
The department was at 75 firefighters in 2008, but the number dropped to 51 on Jan. 1, 2009, as a result of budget-induced layoffs of 11 firefighters and a decision not to rehire firefighters who retired.
Nussle is out of town and could not be reached to comment Thursday.