DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – City leaders in Dayton decided they will not move forward with an application for the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant.
The SAFER Grant provides funding to fire departments and volunteer firefighter interest organizations to help increase or maintain trained firefighters in the community.
Dayton voters approved a charter amendment last year in order to allow the City to apply for the grant.
“It is disappointing that we are unable to apply for this grant at this time,” said City Manager Shelley Dickstein. “Last year, when we asked voters to approve the charter amendment we had no idea a pandemic would devastate our community and upend our finances. Without a clear picture of what the total impact will be from the COVID-19 depression, it would be unwise to move forward with our application.”
The City says that accepting the SAFER grant means the City would have to maintain a staffing level of 197 firefighters for the three-year grant period. While the grant would cover 12 firefighters funded at their first year pay level for three years, we’re told an additional eight firefighters would have to be funded with General Fund money, along with years two and three salary increases for the grant-funded positions.
City officials say the increased cost to the City would average $358,000 per year, or roughly $1.1 million over the mandatory three-year commitment.
“Despite this fiscally challenging time, the Dayton Fire Department remains committed to providing the best possible services to the people we serve,” said Jeff Lykins, Dayton Fire Chief. “Although I would like to see the department grow, I understand the economic uncertainty that has resulted from this pandemic and look forward to applying to the SAFER grant in the near future.”
The arrangement would also put the Dayton Fire Department into a growth mode at a time when the City has had to make “tough decisions” regarding other essential services and City departments. The City says they are unable to make this commitment without knowing the full impact the pandemic will have on budget resources.
We’re told that FEMA confirmed with City staff that if they were to apply for the grant and turn it down, the City’s competitiveness for future grants could be impacted.
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