LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 31, 2012) — Lexington will receive a $2.6 million federal grant that will fund the salaries and benefits of 28 firefighters for two years, announced Mayor Jim Gray and Congressman Ben Chandler. It is the second large public safety grant Lexington has won in just two years.
“Congratulations to our firefighters and thanks to Congressman Chandler for working together to win this grant,” Gray said. “Public safety is our top priority, and this grant will help us make our public safer.”
Chandler said, “In these tough economic times, it is crucial that we protect public safety budgets in Lexington and cities all over the country. We owe it to our cops and firefighters to give them the resources they need to protect our citizens. I am proud to have helped secure this grant, and I will continue to fight to keep federal funds for fire and police available to local communities.”
The grant is the second large public safety grant Lexington has won with Chandler’s support. Last September, the administration successfully pursued a $3.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice that pays the training, salaries and benefits of 25 police officers for three years.
“Lexington has been struggling with a tight budget, just like hundreds of cities across the country,” Gray said. “We pay lots of taxes to Washington and we’ve been fighting to get our fair share back. Today we are taking a big step forward.”
The goal of the federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant program is to assist local fire departments with staffing and deployment capabilities in order to respond to emergencies and assure communities have adequate protection from fire and fire-related hazards. The grants are administered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“Staffing shortages are a direct threat to public safety,” said Chris Bartley, President of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 526. “Closing fire companies and fire stations to compensate for staffing shortages aggravates the problem, putting residents, businesses and firefighters in even greater danger. Public safety is a cornerstone of small business security in communities across the country. Congressman Chandler and Mayor Gray have worked with Chief Jackson and the Lexington Firefighters Union to secure this SAFER grant for Lexington to make the city safer for its citizens and its firefighters as we recover from the Great Recession.”
Fire Chief Keith Jackson said he anticipates the SAFER grant will be used to hire a class of 28 firefighters next January. A class of 18 firefighters is scheduled to hit the streets in October. A third class will be hired next June.
“The additional staff will help the department overcome staffing shortages and limit the impact of attrition on staffing in the future. It will help us better serve our community,” Jackson said.