SAFER vote rescheduled

Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK – A vote on a Fire Department grant has been postponed for the second time.

City councilors Tuesday cancelled a special council meeting scheduled for that night to vote on the acceptance of a $1.25 million FEMA Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant. The meeting was scheduled to receive more information about the grant after the topic was removed from a Sept. 11 council meeting agenda.

The grant, awarded in late August, could pay salary and benefits for six new firefighters for the department, which currently is running with 23 firefighters, five below its minimum staffing levels.

The grants have sparked controversy recently when neighboring communities have declined them citing “hidden costs” that the cities could not afford. Taylor Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand was found guilty of contempt of court Aug. 10 after refusing a judge’s order to accept a $8.1 million SAFER grant that he said came with costs the city could not afford.

He later accepted the grant after the International Association of Firefighters Local 1252 signed a memorandum of understanding requiring firefighters to cash in unused sick and vacation time during the grant period so the city can use the grant to pay for them, saving an estimated $1.2 million.

But Allen Park Fire Chief Douglas LaFond disagreed, saying the only costs to the city come in the form of unemployment compensation if firefighters are laid off when the grant ends.

“I’ve read the grant 100 times and I haven’t found any hidden costs,” he said.

The vote now is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday.