Thursday, January 27, 2011

SAFER Grant Rejected?

"Don't be afraid of failure; be afraid of petty success." - Maude Adams 

Fire Starter noted an item in a recent Press & Sun Bulletin issue regarding the awarding of a FEMA grant to the Johnson City Fire Department.  The Village department was awarded a grant of $92,026 by the federal agency.  The report goes on to note that $30,100 was awarded to modify facilities, $20,983 for equipment and $45,787 for protective equipment.  Putting aside the fact that these specific grants add up to $96,870 (and not $92,026) it is great that the Village taxpayers are able to see some of their federal tax dollars returned to their community.

What is of great concern is the lack of coverage of the Villages failure to claim over $1.3 million in federal money awarded through the SAFER grant program.  The SAFER grant program was created to provide funding directly to fire departments to help increase the number of trained, front line firefighters in a community.  More specifically, the goal is to enhance a department's ability to comply with OSHA and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards for proper fire department staffing.  The program materials note "Ultimately, a faster, safer, and more efficient incident scene will be established and communities will have more adequate protection from fire and fire-related hazards".

So we accept $90,000 from the federal government for "stuff" but we will not accept grants to put more fire fighters between us and disaster.  Fire stations, and equipment do not fight fires and save lives.  Brave men and women do.

As you will all recall, nearly two years ago, Dennis Hannon, Rick Balles and Monica Silas all supported the laying off of six Johnson City fire fighters.  The issue of the layoff was controversial and led to legal struggles which appear to continue to date.  If press accounts are to be believed, if the fire fighters union is successful in their challenge, the Village will owe hundreds of thousands of dollars in retroactive pay to the laid off fire fighters.

In the meantime, the Village has failed to claim this federal grant which would have fully funded the six fire fighter positions for two years.  At the very least, bringing the fire fighters back to work would have stopped the ever growing tab owed by the Village to the laid off fire fighters.  And according to SAFER program documentation, there are no "strings attached" other than maintaining the size of the department plus the new hires (or re-hires)  for the period of the grant.

This appears to be a classic case of cutting off one's nose to spite one's face.  If Mayor Hannon was truly interested in protecting Village residents, this grant would have been accepted.  It would have provided more protection to Village residents and a safer work environment for village fire fighters --and at no cost to village residents.  Instead, Hannon is rejecting the more than $1.3 million grant since accepting it would insure the continuation of the quality fire service we have come to expect. 

It becomes ever clearer that Hannon is bent on wrecking the Village fire department.  The why is known only to Hannon.  However, one can not discount ego.  If he succeeds, it will be clear to all that he is the "boss". 

But where will this leave Village residents?  And at what price, Hannon's ego?

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