ATLANTIC CITY — The city has received a two-year extension of a federal grant that will save 51 firefighters from being laid off.
Officials were notified Wednesday that the $8.7 million extension had been approved.
The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant extends the $9.7 million grant that was awarded in 2011, after budget cuts in 2010 resulted in 30 firefighters being laid off.
But the $9.7 million grant ran out earlier this year and — despite two extensions to use the remainder of that money — the city has used overtime and dipped into next year’s budget to keep the men employed while awaiting word on the grant.
On Wednesday, Fire Chief Dennis Brooks said the city received preliminary news that a two-year “extender grant” had been approved.
“It’s a great Christmas gift for the guys,” Fire Union Chief Chris Emmell said. “For the city residents, too, that we’ll just be able to have the coverage (of the city) that we need. It’s a big sigh of relief.”
Brooks has said losing the 51 firefighters would mean closing three of the city’s 11 fire companies per shift, or as many as six within a 24-hour period.
“I’m very pleased that it worked out this way,” Public Safety Director Will Glass said. “It’s an example of the positive things that can happen when the city administration, fire administration and the firefighters’ union work in unison.”
Emmell said the city is exploring a couple of options on what to do during the next two years to make sure the firefighters can stay employed when the grant ends.
Mayor-elect Don Guardian has said he would like to see a fund put aside to pay the firefighters once the new grant has expired.
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