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JAMESTOWN, NY (WNY News Now) — The Jamestown City Council once again held off on voting for eight new firefighters for the pearl city which would be partially paid for via a $1.8 million dollar federal grant.
The lawmaking body had a very lengthy discussion at their Monday night voting session around the costs of hiring the additional personnel. In attendance was almost the entire fire department and multiple members of the public advocating for a safer Jamestown.
“While there are reasonable uncertainties of how these positions will be funded in the future,“ explained President of the Jamestown Firefighters Ben McLaughlin. “We don’t know what the city finances are going to be, or what the funding opportunities are going to be. What we do know is that we have a need and FEMA agrees.”
Many agree the personnel is essential, however more sustainable funding is needed.
“There are hundreds of pages of grant guides to support local officials who are seeking the funding that is needed to sustain and enhance our communities,“ stated Jamestown resident and city council candidate, Alyssa Porter. “I’ve brought 15 copies of the request form of these guides and have pre checked the fire and emergencies services option for you.”
Ultimately, all but councilwoman Regina Brackman voted to table the resolution. Councilman Reynolds was hesitant to agree.
“I’m strongly asking the council to not just kick it down the road and let the next administration or next council worry about where we’re going to get this money,“ explained Councilman Bill Reynolds.
The main fear appears to be what happens after grant funding runs dry: a mass layoff.
“People will not be happy when we are looking at other departments having to either eliminate staff, the roads won’t get plowed, and many other things that are a choice that this council would have to make when we don’t have the funds,“ stated Councilwoman Marie Carrubba.
Going forward, the Mayor’s Office is working to set up a meeting with FEMA, the grant’s provider, to address further questions by city council members.
“I am disappointed that City Council declined to take action on the hiring of eight firefighters through the SAFER Grant program. In my opinion, hiring these firefighters is a no-brainer. These positions would be funded by a federal grant for three years and have minimal impact on the City’s budget during this time,” said Mayor Eddie Sundquist in a statement.
“There are a number of questions that came up during tonight’s voting session that have never been brought up as concerns before. City Council has repeatedly declined to respond to the administration’s requests for questions on this grant, instead opting to ask them during the Council session tonight.”
“I will be working with the Council President to schedule a meeting to allow City Council to meet with FEMA representatives so they can directly ask questions about the SAFER Grant. I urge Council to put forth solutions to make this work for the safety of all our residents.”
Since receiving the SAFER grant in mid-February, the city has 180 days to officially accept the monies so a final vote is expected sometime in May. The next City Council meeting is May 8.
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