Maloney secures funding to retain Newburgh firefighter levels

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Rep. Sean Parick Maloney, right, tells Newburgh firefighters today
that he was able to secure the $900,000
from Washington to retain 10 paid firefighters

NEWBURGH – Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY18) visited the
City of Newburgh Fire Department Friday to announce that a portion of
the federal SAFER Grant funds, awarded to the department two years ago
that were being disputed by FEMA, have finally been secured. That means
there will be no layoffs of firefighters.

The city’s fire department received $2.4 million through the grant
program which is provided to fire departments in need of personnel funding.
However, a dispute occurred between the city and the federal government.
That’s when the congressman said his office stepped in.

“My office got involved to resolve a dispute between the city and
the federal government about $900,000 of this funding that was going to
become unavailable,” said Maloney. “We have resolved that
dispute; that money will come to the city. It will allow the city to continue
to employ these firefighters through 2016, at least the first quarter
of 2016, when we will be able, I believe, to continue the federal funding
as part of a new grant cycle that will renew the initial grant, which
means, that by bridging this gap and resolving this dispute, we should
be able to fund these positions, essentially, indefinitely but, at least,
for the next several years,” he said.

Maloney commented that due to the nature of the grant itself, they were
expecting a situation like the dispute to occur since the time the department
was awarded the grant.

If the SAFER funding had not been restored, 10 full-time firefighters
the city had hired as a result of being awarded the grant, would have
been laid off.
Chief Michael Vatter said during the dispute there was a period of uncertainty
where they were planning for the situation of losing the funding for sure.

With the added stressor of the holidays coming up, he said tensions were
high and morale was low within the department, making it very apparent
to him, as the chief, how dire the situation was for those whose jobs
were in jeopardy.

“When you’re sitting there helping somebody do some paperwork
and they have their two-year-old daughter with them it really comes home
on what that means, that paycheck and that job that they love,”
said Vatter. “They don’t want to go anyplace else, they want
to stay here; they want to be firefighters in Newburgh and it makes you
want to redouble your efforts to help them.”

The funding has now been secured for the department until April/May of
2016, allowing Newburgh to have 13-14 firefighters working on every shift
which, Chief Vatter said, allows them to arrive at almost every call with
“boots on the doorstep” within three minutes. Vatter said
the department is already working on perfecting their application for
the next grant round and are being very proactive regarding the continued
employment of their firefighters who are necessary to keeping the city
safe.