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Mass. town accepts $1.2 million grant to hire eight additional firefighters

Town representative believes the new personnel will result in a “better community”

By George Brennan
Cape Cod Times

SANDWICH, Mass. — The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously on Thursday to accept a $1.2 million federal grant, paving the way for the town to hire eight additional firefighters.

The town received word it had received the SAFER grant two weeks ago and had 30 days to either accept or reject it.

“In doing this we’re making the commitment, recognizing there will be additional costs into the future. However, there will be benefits,” Selectman Frank Pannorfi said during the board’s regular meeting, pointing out improved response times and a fairer distribution of services. “I think we’re going to be a better community for it.”

The grant came at a time when town leaders were struggling with the mixed message sent by voters in May. Voters approved $17 million for a new police station, fire substation and repairs to the East Sandwich station, but rejected a $750,000 Proposition 2½ override to pay for the firefighters to staff the East Sandwich facility.

The town is looking to staff all three fire stations to improve response times to fires and medical emergencies throughout town, Fire Chief William Carrico said.

All of the firefighters hired will be trained as firefighters and EMTs.

The money gives the town part of three fiscal years to figure out how to pay for the additional firefighters in the future because the grant, which covers two years, goes into effect Feb. 4, said Town Manager George “Bud” Dunham.

“Our collective goal should be how do we make it seamless once the grant runs out,” Dunham said.

The town is now likely to push renovations to the East Sandwich station to the top of the priority list. The $1.2 million in renovations there includes new kitchen facilities and a separate modular facility for sleeping quarters so that the station can be staffed.

Once the East Sandwich station and the fire substation on Quaker Meetinghouse Road are open, the Forestdale fire station will close. The downtown headquarters will remain open giving the department three strategically placed fire houses to meet the goal of making the vast majority of response times under eight minutes.

There was some discussion at Thursday’s meeting about what effect the new firefighters would have on overtime, a budget buster for the Fire Department. With more employees there would still be overtime to cover vacations and illness, Carrico said, but there is a plan in place not to bring in additional firefighters when the first of three stations is called out to an emergency.

Copyright 2016 Cape Cod Times

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