Mayor McShurley has applied for the SAFER grant. For those of you not familiar with this grant, it is Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Responses. The grant is sponsored by FEMA.
If approved, the grant will allow 25 of the 32 laid off firefighters to return to work. The money will pay salaries and benefits for two years. After the performance period ends there is no requirement to retain the personnel.
The two stations closed last year will remain shuttered.
The mayor has been aware of the grant, but for the most part did not commit to applying. For good reason. The city had just gone through some of the toughest budget crunches it has seen. Although, Muncie has never been a stranger to budget shortfalls, this one was particularly brutal. Past budget crunches have always ended with an increase in taxes and in some years it also included 4% raises. This year the people said no to new taxes. (LOIT)
As part of the bargain, the union has dropped the minimum staffing requirement from their contract. Basically, minimum staffing would include as an example, 30 firefighters on duty in any given shift. If the shift drops to 29, then a firefighter will be called in to work and be paid overtime.
Center Township Trustee, Kay walker, has agreed to dismantle the township fire department and pay the city $250,000 in 2011 and $400,000 beginning in 2012. Combining both the union concessions and Center Township the city hopes to save $750,000 over two years and $700,000 per year after the first two years.
In 2008 Center Township had estimated the budget to be $850,000; the paper reports Center’s budget is $775,000.
Union president, Mike Whited was quoted in the newspaper saying many of the laid off workers have already found other employment and he is unsure how many will be returning.
None of this will happen, of course, if the grant is not awarded. It may be early spring before we know.
When the grant was first introduced, the mayor took heat because she was concerned about the upfront costs and hesitated in applying. Since the questions have been resolved that is no longer an issue.
Just today I read comments from residents and one person is already gearing up for the next political attack against the mayor. He or she has begun to blame the mayor because she waited to long to submit the grant. Apparently, he or she feels this will have some bearing on the outcome.
The deadline for submitting the grant was January 15th, 2010-5:00 PM Eastern time. It makes no difference if the application was submitted three weeks ago, or five minutes before the deadline. In fact, there is absolutely nothing in the grant specifications which say as much.
So, if the grant application is denied, look for those who will blame it on late filing, when there was no late filing at all.
The article is available on-line for seven day.