Warren Hoping for Fire Grant Extension to Avoid Layoffs

Warren city officials and Warren firefighter union representatives have been meeting over cuts that could occur at the Warren Fire Department when a federal SAFER Grant ends in May, but there may be some hope for those who would be affected.

John Fortune became one of Warren ‘s newest firefighters last February, thanks to the $4.9 million grant. But soon, he and 13 other firefighters may be looking at unemployment.

“I drew the short end of the stick and i’m on the bottom, so waiting on the date at the end of May,” Fortune said.

That’s when a six-month extension to use the rest of a Federal SAFER grant runs out. However, there is still around $2 million of the grant left to use.

Warren Fire Chief Ken Nussle said city officials are working to see if they can use the remainder of the funds, or at least part of them, to delay the layoffs a bit longer. He said the city also plans to apply for another grant when the new grant period opens up.

Nussle said the department spends a little over $100,000 a month on the 14 firefighters under the SAFER grant, meaning they could potentially go another full year without having to worry about layoffs.

“I don’t think anybody here wants to go on unemployment. We all like to work and be here at the station, be around the guys, around the crew. We get to see some good action here,” Fortune said.

Nussle said if the department does not get the extension, there will be some tough decisions over how to run the department with less manpower.

“We thought in November and we still had funds available. We got a six-month extension. We are just optimistic we will get another one,” he said.

Nussle plans to submit the extension request by the middle of April, with the hopes to hear back by the May 26 deadline.

When the city first got the grant in late 2010, several council members, including John Brown and Helen Rucker, expressed concern about what would happen to the 14 newly hired and 10 recalled firefighters when the grant expired. Both council members expressed concern at the time about having to pay unemployment for the two dozen laid off employees, a cost estimated at $10,000 per firefighter.

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