ELYRIA — A federal grant Elyria firefighters hope will bring back the 17 firefighters who were laid off this year will be available next month.
The department has been waiting for the last six months for Congress to iron out the details on the federal SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant, which was created to provide funding directly to fire departments in order to help them increase the number of firefighters. The office of U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, D-Copley Township, announced Friday that about $210 million will be available.
Dean Marks, president of the Elyria Firefighter’s Union Local 474, said he’s been in communication with Sutton and her office and will work with fire Chief Richard Benton to apply for the grant as soon as the application period opens Nov. 16.
“We’re already staged and ready to go,” Marks said. “It will not take us long to put in for our application.”
Benton and the city administration would be responsible for putting the application together and then Council would need to approve it before it heads back to the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, D.C. The deadline for applying is Dec. 18.
Elyria Mayor Bill Grace has said in the past that the city would apply for the grant once it became available. He did not return messages seeking comment Friday.
Marks said the city would not have to provide any matching funds to receive grant money.
If the city receives enough to hire back all 17 firefighters, it would likely have enough manpower to reopen all three fire stations, and maybe even a fourth. The city was recently forced to go down to operating only two stations to cut costs.
The grant money would run out after two years, Marks said, but by then the city budget problems will hopefully improve.
Sutton said she has been personally working on the bill for months and has even mentioned the Elyria Fire Department’s woes on the House floor to emphasize its need.
“This is great news,” Sutton said in a prepared statement. “Protecting the jobs of our first responders is a top priority in ensuring the safety of all communities. I am pleased that the Department of Homeland Security will begin accepting these applications, and I encourage all of our local fire departments to apply for these much-needed grants.”
Contact Adam Wright at 329-7155 or firstname.lastname@example.org.