Monday, December 7, 2015

Grant Funding for Firefighting

Earlier this afternoon, WAMC reported on Senator Charles Schumer's annual sixty-two county tour of New York State, which concluded recently in Rensselaer County. At the Troy Fire Department headquarters, Schumer launched a push to increase grant programs for firefighters: "Schumer: NY Fire Departments Need Greater Federal Help."

According to the report, there are two grant programs that make federal funds available to local fire departments: the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) and Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER). Schumer is quoted as saying, "The SAFER Grant program . . . helps our career departments hire new firefighters and our volunteer departments recruit and retain members. So the SAFER Grant is about membership. People. The AFG is about equipment. And we need both." Both programs, the report points out, have seen a decrease in funding since 2011.

The report goes on to say: "Schumer worries local fire departments may be forced to choose between waiting another year and using outdated, potentially dangerous equipment, or purchasing equipment immediately and without federal funding, passing the burden along to local taxpayers."

In 2013, a new firetruck was purchased for J. W. Hoysradt Hose & Chemical Company. During his campaign for re-election, Mayor William Hallenbeck often boasted that the new apparatus had been purchased without incurring debt, but there was never mention of grant funding being available, sought, or awarded for the purchase.

Photo: Neal Van Deusen
The City is now planning ahead for the purchase of a new giant ladder truck in 2020, to replace the current one, which was purchased in 2001. A capital reserve fund has been established for this purpose with $150,000 from the fund balance. All the discussion and planning for this purchase seems to suggest that the City has to go it alone. There is no talk about securing grants for replacing the ladder truck. Is that because it's best not to talk about grants that the City may not receive? Is it because, with reduced funding, the grants have become too competitive? Is it because Hudson for some reason doesn't qualify for these grants? Maybe Schumer's initiative for increased federal funding for firefighters can help us in this respect.

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