SAFER grant only a start in Plymouth Township
Plymouth Township Supervisor Richard Reaume directs Fire Chief Mark Wendel at Tuesday’s Board of Trustees Meeting prior to the board announcing their acceptance of the SAFER grant
Jan. 15, 2014 PLYMOUTH EAGLE.
Re-opening Lake Pointe’s shuttered Station 2 still not resolved
Earlier this month the board announced they would need an additional $1.6 million to replace fire department vehicles and other firefighter gear, radios and patient lifesaving equipment. Plymouth Township Supervisor Richard Reaume drafted a formal resolution to approve the expenditure to be supported by a 1.0 mill tax increase. The compiled data based on information provided by Fire Chief Mark Wendel last July when he outlined the dire condition of the current equipment used by the fire department and expressed his concern for the safety of both the firefighters and the public. The proposed motion was apparently quashed when township officials learned of the SAFER grant award and has not yet been reviewed with all board members in a public forum.
The township’s application to the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the subsequent award of $1.33 million demonstrated the critical need to meet the minimum National Fire Protection Association standards. However, funding from the FEMA grant can only be used to assist fire departments by paying the salary and benefits of the SAFER-funded full-time firefighters. Full-time positions are those funded for at least 2,080 hours per year, or 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year.
What has not been addressed by township officials is how they intend to fund the replacement of the critically needed fire vehicles and equipment and re-open fire station no. 2, the one that serves their largest subdivision, Lake Pointe, with 600 homes.
The addition of 6 firefighters will most likely eliminate the need for the enormous overtime hours necessitated after Reaume and the Board of Trustees drastically downsized the fire department to 12 full time firefighters.
Plymouth, Romulus win federal grants
Fire departments in Plymouth Township and the City of Romulus will receive more than $2 million in federal grants to hire firefighters.
The grants were announced last week by U. S. Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow. The Romulus Fire Department will receive $729,465 and the Plymouth Community Fire Department has been awarded $1,331,694 from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a part of the Department of Homeland Security.
The program allows fire departments across the country to compete for federal grant money in several categories, according to Levin’s office. The Plymouth Township and Romulus awards are from the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) program, a competitive grant process to help ensure that the fire departments nationwide have the firefighters they need to protect their communities.
Plymouth Township Supervisor Richard Reaume rejected the last SAFER grant of nearly $900,000 awarded to the fire department in December of 2010, claiming the township could not comply with the grant prohibition against any firefighter layoffs during the two year period of the federal funding. A motion to accept this grant was on the agenda for the regular meeting of the board of trustees Tuesday evening. Results were not known at press time.
Romulus Mayor LeRoy Burcroff said the funding would be used to hire three full-time and three part-time firefighters in the city.
“We’re very happy about this. There is no local match on these funds and it will allow us to increase response time in the city and provide better staffing of our department. It will also help us reduce overtime in our department,” he said. Burcroff said that Romulus has another application for a separate SAFER grant for a variety of equipment for the department.
“This is a good thing for our community he said. “Remember, we have Detroit Metro Airport right in the center of our city.”
Grant applications were submitted by the Plymouth and Romulus fire departments respectively prior to the August deadline last year. As part of the application process in Plymouth Township, members of the board of trustees were required to send a letter of support for the request which was approved on Oct. 2, 2013.
According to Capt. Dan Phillips, the Plymouth Township firefighters union president, the grant application demonstrated the need to meet the minimum National Fire Protection Association standards in the township. Phillips said the criteria for selection was based on factors including community demographics, major infrastructure, staff layoffs, salaries, fringe benefits and other elements. Phillips said the grant specifically asked for six men, which would bring the department up to a total of 18. If the board members vote to accept the grant, six of the nine laid-off firefighters would be called back to work.
“We’re understaffed and we need personnel and our run volume is going up. We’re now averaging 10 runs a day, and the other day we had 23. I’m very happy,” Phillips said.
“It is vital that we maintain the fire protection and emergency medical services our citizens need,” Levin said.
“These grants to the fire departments in Romulus and Plymouth (Township) will help them hire more first responders to protect their communities when an emergency strikes.”
Stabenow agreed, noting, “Across Michigan, our firefighters provide critical, courageous service to communities like Romulus and Plymouth. This grant will help the Romulus and Plymouth fire departments hire more first responders to protect the public.”
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