By ANDREA POTEET
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE – A federal grant to hire four firefighters was approved in a unanimous City Council vote Monday.
Councilors voted 6-0 to accept a $616,876 Federal Emergency Management Agency Staffing for Adequate Fire and Response grant to pay salaries for four firefighters from March 6 to March 5, 2015, bringing the department’s staffing levels up to 2009 levels of 28.
The grant was awarded Dec. 14.
The grant has caused controversy in other Downriver communities. A SAFER grant has been tabled several times in Allen Park and is still being considered by the city’s emergency financial manager, and last year Taylor Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand was found guilty of contempt of court after refusing a judge’s order to accept a $8.1 SAFER grant he’d declined to based on “hidden costs” –mainly a no-layoff clause – associated with the grant he felt the city could not afford. He later accepted the grant.
But Wyandotte Fire Chief Jeff Carley said the grant awarded to Wyandotte has no such no-layoff clause. Carley said after the grant ends, the city may keep the new firefighters on through attrition, apply for a SAFER retention grant to keep them on, or, in a “worst-case scenario,” lay them off if the city’s financial situation does not improve.
“The best option would hopefully be that our current financial situations that we’re finding all over Downriver would improve so they would be able to maintain employment,” Carley said.
Carley said he applied for the grant once before and was denied.
Mayor Joseph Peterson said he was looking forward to putting the grant to use.
“This is a chance for us to get four extra firefighters,” Peterson said. “I know in some cities there has been debate on the SAFER grant, but talking to the city administrator, this is a great opportunity for us to pick up four firefighters and try to get the staff back up to 28.”