Warren grant extension prevents fire department layoffs
By Ed Runyan
The Warren Fire Department is able to rescind the 14 layoff notices the city sent last month after a last- minute one-year extension of a $5 million federal grant.
The layoffs were set to go into effect Monday.
Ken Nussle, Warren fire chief, said he learned Friday that the department will get another year to spend some of the remaining $1.7 million left of the grant that the department first received in November 2010.
Nussle estimates the additional year will result in spending about $1.4 million of the remaining funds.
The original grant was for two years, ending November 2012, but the U.S. Department of Homeland Security allowed the department to extend the grant an additional six months ending Sunday.
The city received the grant, called Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER), a year after the department was reduced from 75 firefighters to 51 because of budget-induced layoffs and leaving vacant positions unfilled.
The grant brought the department back to nearly 75 firefighters by bringing 10 firefighters back from layoffs and hiring 14 more.
In March, after the city was turned down for an additional SAFER grant, officials started making plans for the layoff of 14 firefighters.
Nussle said he’s not aware of any fire department being allowed to extend its SAFER grant a second time and therefore did not expect it to happen.
Nussle said the additional year is good news for the 14 firefighters who were about to get laid off, for Warren residents and for the firefighters who would have been left behind to handle the workload with fewer people.
“It’s going to allow the fire department to maintain the same response times,” Nussle said. “Additional trucks will be staffed. More firefighters makes it safer for the firefighters and residents.”
Nussle added that the city will apply for an additional SAFER grant to replace the current one. The extension means the current one expires May 26, 2014.