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5.11 Tactical Kilts are Back

$1.1 million in grant money is on the table in Danville.

Some city leaders said it's not going to help, but the firefighters said they need it now more than ever.

The federal grant, called Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER), would hire six more firefighters for at least three years.

The local union said they are understaffed and working too many hours, which is exceeding the city's overtime budget.

“I want to make sure that, while we are looking at the safety of our community and looking at the safety of our firefighters, we want to make sure we can afford to do this and afford to continue to do this," said Alderman Lloyd Randle of the 7th Ward.

The federal grant would help pay 75 percent of the cost for the first two years and then 35 percent for the third year. After that, the funds are gone in hopes the city can support it on its own.

The firefighters’ local union said they need the grant, taking it upon themselves to apply for it months ago.

“This shows a way to help the city save money,” said President of the Union Brian Hogg. “[It would] save the taxpayers money, help reduce the overtime and let us spend more time at home with our families."

Something he said is hard to do when working extra shifts, which can take a toll on them physically and mentally.

“This is a job where you have to be on you’re A-game the whole time," Hogg said.

Randle said he's thinking more long-term about the grant.

Right now, he said the city is close to reaching half of a million dollars in overtime penalties for police and fire.

“We want to make sure that we can in fact reduce the overtime and that there are no long-term implications to the pension fund," Randle said.

The pension debt could increase if the city looks to keep the new firefighters on board after three years, ultimately falling on taxpayers.

But Hogg said for the time being, the grant would help the fire department better serve the community—something they do no matter what.

“We will still serve to the best of our ability,” Hobb said.

The city has until Oct. 7 to either accept or reject this grant.

Council members are still waiting to get all the details and promises of the grant before deciding.

by Lauren Kostiuk

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