Atlantic City will have 13 new firefighter recruits begin the academy Tuesday as part of a federal grant that expired with money left over.
The $9.7 million Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant — or SAFER — was awarded two years ago and allowed the city to earlier this month, with no word on a requested two-year extension.
But because there was money left over, the city requested permission to use that until it runs out. That is expected to happen sometime in October, Fire Chief Dennis Brooks said.
It is not clear whether the requested extension could be approved by then, but — if not — the city likely would have to put out layoff notices for the 48 firefighters covered under the grant, Brooks said. That also could include demotions for ranking firefighters.
Despite that possibility, six firefighters were promoted to captain Monday.
“We thought long and hard about that,” Brooks said. “But we decided to make the promotions now, and let the department run the way it’s supposed to.”
There were several promotions a few weeks ago, too, which Brooks said already have helped make things run better within the department.
“The leadership’s constant now,” he said, noting that before, firefighters were filling the positions in an acting capacity.
“You can’t really get anything done that way,” he said. “It’s actually a breath of fresh air getting these guys promoted, so I’m grateful to the mayor and the public safety director for that.”
The city also hired 13 firefighters with the grant earlier this year with the understanding that they also could face layoffs. If layoff notices are sent out, those could help with getting the grant extension approved, Brooks said at the time.
Departments with firefighters laid off are given top priority, with those who have received layoff notice in the next group. Those that have no currently laid-off firefighters, such as Atlantic City, are at the lowest priority for getting the grant money.
Contact Lynda Cohen:
Follow Lynda Cohen on Twitter @LyndaCohen