By Alex Kowalski
PBN Staff Writer
PAWTUCKET - The city of Pawtucket pulled in a $4.2 million federal grant to support 21 new “front-line” firefighter hires, covering full pay and benefits for two years. It is the city’s second large federal grant this month.
Funded through competitive application in the staffing-oriented Safer program, or Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, the money will bring the fire department’s total staff to 151 across the city’s six companies.
The Safer program was designed to give a “kick start” in front-line firefighter hiring, training and retention, with extra money in the budget to help the department comply with federal fire protection and work condition standards.
“Approval of this major grant is great news and a significant boost for public safety in our city. We are truly grateful for the efforts of Sen. [Jack] Reed with Sen. [Sheldon] Whitehouse and [Rep. David N.] Cicilline to assure us of this funding,” said Mayor Donald R. Grebien at a Monday news conference. Though publicly announced Monday, the award was dispersed on Jan. 25.
The mayor was also joined by Fire Chief William J. Sisson, Cicilline, Reed and Whitehouse at the city’s Cottage Street fire station. Due to the size and significance of the endowment, the mayor singled out the grant-writing efforts of Lts. Gil Woodside and Ed Shotteck, who worked on the application along with Sisson.
Last month, the city also received $528,038 in federal grant funds to purchase 75 new self-contained breathing apparatuses, bringing the city’s January 2013 federal award total to $4.78 million.
Pawtucket is the third Rhode Island city to receive a sizable Safer grant in the last three months, with Cumberland receiving nearly $1 million on Jan. 11 and Cranston receiving $3.47 million on Dec. 21, 2012.