City receives FEMA grant to fund four additional firefighters

LACONIA — Fire Chief Ken Erickson and City Manger Scott Myers announced this week that the city has been awarded a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant of $642,028 by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to fund the cost of four additional firefighters for two years.
The grant is intended to shorten response times and expand fire suppression capability while reducing the risk of injury to firefighters. Apart from the cost of outfitting the firefighters with turnout gear and equipping them with handheld radios, estimated at about $15,000, the grant would fund their salaries, overtime and benefits for two years, with no requirement to retain them when the funding was exhausted.
When the grant was initially awarded in January, the City Council rejected it by a 4-2 vote out of concern that once the grant expired, there was no assurance the city would have the means to retain the additional personnel.
Meanwhile, in March Municipal Resources Inc. of Meredith, which the City Council commissioned to review coverage, overtime and scheduling at the Fire Department, issued its report, featuring a recommendation to hire four firefighters in 2014 and two in each of the following two years. MRI also suggested the council reapply for the SAFER grant. In April councilors voted unanimously to authorize Deputy Chief Deb Pendergast, who prepared the original grant application, to resubmit it. Moreover, the council agreed to work with the department to prepare a plan to ensure funding for the four positions once the grant expires.
At the time, Erickson said he was "optimistic" about receiving the grant, noting that the department's original application scored very highly and the funds had not been distributed.