SAFER Grant Update: Ferndale Hopes to Have 4 Recalled Firefighters Working Next Week
Federal funds to cover costs for two years.
Last month Ferndale City Council accepted a federal grant that would rehire four laid off Ferndale firefighters for two years at no cost to the city.
There was speculation whether or not the city would be able to accept the SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant, worth $850,000, if the millage vote on May 3 failed. The millage is a revenue generating tax increase to help fill a $2 million shortfall in the city's general operating budget.
Rules for the FEMA grant state the city can't lay off any firefighters in the two-year period. If the millage didn't pass, according to city council, there would have been six layoffs in the fire department.
But the millage passed by 197 votes and Council accepted the grant on May 23. (Originally the millage passed by 198 votes, but a recount late in May revealed that one no vote went uncounted due to voter error.)
Ferndale Fire Chief Kevin Sullivan said the department is making progress recalling the four firefighters -- Jared Berousek, Jake Latson, Joseph Helmick and Daniel Hoard .
Even though the four were previous employees of the city, they still must go through the same process as new hires.
"Everything is going good," Sullivan said. "They are getting physicals, getting through the paperwork as quickly as possible.
"They are signing what they need to sign and hopefully by next week we'll have them back in the building, issue them equipment and get them on the road."
Ferndale had to cut the fire department last summer by seven to balance the budget. There were four layoffs and three cuts through attrition.
With current staffing, the fire department is "fairly frequently" running six-man crews, seven occasionally, Sullivan said. With four additional four firefighters, the department would be able to run seven and eight man crews, which the chief called the ideal staffing level for the department.