Fire grant OK’d with caveat

Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK – A federal grant to hire six firefighters may be in the city’s future, but is now in the hands of the fire union.

City councilors Tuesday passed a resolution to allow Fire Chief Douglas LaFond to accept a $1.25 million Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant by the grant’s deadline of tomorrow provided he had a memorandum of understanding from International Association of Firefighters Local 1410 to reduce its daily minimum staffing levels from seven to five.

As of Friday Morning, LaFond said the union had not consented on a memorandum of understanding.

Councilman Bob Keenan said the measure would help cut overtime costs for the department, projected to total $300,000 by the end of this fiscal year, because though it would run with eight or nine firefighters a day, the shifts of those who called in sick or were on vacation would not have to be covered with firefighters who would be using overtime hours.

LaFond said the grant could cut overtime costs this fiscal year by as much as $120,000 and next year by as much as $225,000.

“We will be able to put more people on the scene for less money,” LaFond said.

If accepted, the grant period begins Nov. 18 whether firefighters have been hired. LaFond said if passed, he would like to hire the two applicants on the current eligibility roster and advertise for the formation of a new one, from which to hire four more applicants as soon as possible.

“I don’t want to lose one day of grant money,” LaFond said.

Much has been made in other cities about the grant’s “hidden costs,” but LaFond said none exist. He said there is a no-layoff clause for the six firefighters hired, but the city can reapply at the grant’s end to keep them on staff. He also said the contract will not extend the union’s current contract, which ends in 2013.