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|MFD in line for grant to hire firefighters|
A federal grant will help the Monroe Fire Department hire nine more firefighters, which Chief Jimmie Bryant says the department desperately needs.
Currently, the Monroe Fire Department is short about a dozen firefighters of what the city needs on a regular basis, Bryant said.
"We're very excited about this because those positions are desperately needed," Bryant said. "It will be a tremendous help to the guys out there on the street from a manpower standpoint."
The city council must give final approval to receive the grant, which Bryant believes will occur in the next few weeks.
"The city council and the mayor have already approved us applying for it, and now that we've secured it, we'll go back to the council for approval to accept it," Bryant said. "At that time, we'll present a fiscal impact statement and show how we're going to pay for it throughout the duration of the grant."
"I'm very confident that approval will be nothing more than a formality because these positions are needed, and it's going to save the city a little more than a million dollars over the life of the grant," he added.
Following approval by the city council, the fire department can begin hiring new firefighters. Those new employees must undergo a 16-week training process before taking on the responsibilities of a firefighter.
Firefighters hired through the grant must remain on staff through the duration of the grant, which is five years. After five years, the city council can decide to retain those firefighters, but their salaries and benefits would be paid by the city. The city, though, is not obligated to keep those firefighters on staff after the grant expires.
U.S. Sen. David Vitter made the announcement last week that the fire department will get approximately $889,755 from the Department of Homeland Security's Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency grant, commonly called the SAFER grant.
The grant is used solely to increase personnel numbers at fire departments across the country.
In a news release announcing this grant, Vitter said, "The citizens of Monroe depend on the local fire department to respond to fires and accidents in their community. These funds will ensure that Monroe firefighters have the backup they need to provide a safe and effective response."
The Department of Homeland Security provides the funds to assist a firefighters grants program, which is designed to increase the ability of local fire departments to respond to fire and fire-related hazards and to expand the number of firefighters available in local communities.