Ohio dept. to rehire 10 firefighters with help from federal grant

Money from the SAFER grant will bring total staff to 144 for the next two years

By Kelly Byer
The Repository

CANTON, Ohio — Safety Director Andrea Perry told the City Council on Monday that the city will rehire 10 firefighters by Sept. 3.

The city laid off the firefighters April 29 as part of an effort to reduce a $5.1 million budget deficit, attributed to decreasing income tax revenue and state budget cuts. A Federal Emergency Management Agency Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) grant awarded earlier this month will bring Fire Department staffing from 134 to 144.

City Council formally approved the two-year, $1.45 million grant at Monday's meeting.

Fire Chief Thomas Garra said his first priority will be staffing an engine at station No. 4, which is at 25th and Cleveland Avenue NW and is covering three districts with a ladder truck — which is not equipped with the same firefighting tools.

"That engine will reach out farther," he said.

Then, as manpower allows, Garra will open station No. 2, at Fourth Street SE and Belden Avenue. The station has been closed 137 days between Jan. 1 and Aug. 10 but open more often than the regularly closed stations No. 5, No. 6, and No. 10.

"They all need to be open," Garra said Monday after his presentation to council.

Special operations training also has suffered under overtime constraints, Garra said, and the department plans to end its water rescue and possibly trench rescue operations for the month of December.

Garra said the department provides about half of the county's hazardous material team and, in that regard, will "do the best we can."

Three of the 10 laid-off firefighters have found employment at other departments, but Garra said he anticipates most, if not all, returning.

Copyright 2016 The Repository, Canton, Ohio

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