Atlantic City has added 27 firefighters to its ranks in the past year, more than any other time in recent memory, Fire Chief Dennis Brooks said.
But the federal grant forcing the city to hire at this rate is running out and, unless it's renewed, the city may have to lay off as many as 50 firefighters this fall.
Fire Department leaders applied for the Staffing for Adequate Fire Emergency and Response - or SAFER - grant after the city laid off 30 firefighters and 60 police officers in 2010. The $9.7 million grant allowed the department to bring back the laid-off firefighters and increase the number of personnel available to respond to calls.
The two-year term ended in May, but the city was given permission to use the approximately $3.5 million left on the grant, which should pay those firefighters until October, Deputy Fire Chief Vincent Granese has said.
But, to be in compliance, the city has to keep 50 firefighters on the grant. As fire personnel leave or retire, those at the top of the grant list have moved over to the city's payroll, meaning new hires were necessary to fill the empty SAFER spots.
Public Safety Director Will Glass said he is meeting with the fire union today to see where things stand.
"We're trying to make sure we get additional funding to keep the firefighters in place," he said.
But without that money, the city would have to either take on paying those firefighters or face layoffs, Brooks said.
Atlantic City is low on the priority list, according to how the grants are distributed, Granese has said. Top priority goes to departments that have firefighters laid off, while those who have put out lay-off notices are in the second tier.
He previously said it's possible the city may have to at least put out lay-off notices to be considered for grant renewal.
Just four of the original firefighters laid off in 2010 remain on the grant. Two laid-off police officers moved to the Fire Department are also in the list of 50. Currently, they are at 12 and 19 on the list, but that could change if their longevity with the Police Department carries over.
"That's one of the issues they're looking into," Glass said. "A final determination has not been made. It's being looked at as we speak, so that we're fair to everyone."
The bottom 14 on the list just graduated from the academy July 2.
The firefighters on the grant, in order, according to a list provided by the city, are: Ismail Abdussamad, Michael McCabe, Andrew Kyle, John Lyles-Belton, Lawrence Hoag, Khalif Bennett, Patrick Cooke, Kurt Kwart, Glen Harney, Timothy Schwegman, Martin Carson, Joseph Caprio, Matthew Myrtetus, Anthony Vicchiarelli, Andrae Walker, Andrew Doorley, Stephen May, Charles Tartius, Victor Garofalo, Corey Bailey, Brian Berrio, Michael Logan, Eric Funk, Jason Pendlebury, Timothy Brining, Richard Restaino, Patrick McDevitt, Joseph Welsh III, Derrick Williams, William Nagle, Adrian Wilson Jr., Richard DiCioccio, Eric Koob, Patrick Reynolds, Matthew Doherty, Mauro Sandoval, Ronald Laielli, Matthew Williams, Thomas Higbee, Chaser Gaffney, Dane Nicholson, Bobby Goff, Marc Getzke, Torian Perry, Robert Wode, Amir Mahmoud, Anthony Santoro, Robert DeMarco, Sharif Timberlake and Brian Maiese.
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