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City is in line to get major grant

By Charles Sercombe

A large chunk of the city’s financial woes could be solved, thanks to a potential federal grant.

The city appears to be in the running for a federal grant that will cover the salary costs of the Fire Department for the next two years.

We’re talking to the tune of $800,000 to $1.2 million.

William Diamond, the president of the Hamtramck firefighters’ union, told city officials that there is a very good chance the city will qualify for the grant, which is being handed out by FEMA.

The grant, called SAFER (which stands for: Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response), is set up to help financially distressed cities offset their public safety costs.

Like a fire department.

The city council agreed to hire two consultants for $7,000 to write the grant. The consultants have a proven track record. They wrote and won a SAFER grant awarded to Detroit.

“There’s a 75-80 percent chance of getting this,” Diamond told the city council at Tuesday’s council meeting. “It’s absolutely something that could save the city a ton of money for the next two years.”

So, what’s the catch?

Not much other than the city has to promise not to layoff any firefighters for the next two years if it wins the grant.

The grant will go a long way in reducing a projected $3.5 million budget deficit that will occur by this time next year if budgets savings and new revenue sources aren’t found.

In the meantime, the firefighters’ union is being asked to accept contract concessions to help bridge the deficit gap. Acting City Manager Nevrus Nazarko said he can’t go into details about what the city is asking the firefighters to agree to, but he said generally it has to do with contributing more to their health insurance coverage.

Diamond said that firefighters are open to talking about concessions.

“I’m willing to make concessions because I want a job,” he said.

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