VINELAND — City Council voted 3-1 — with one abstention — on Tuesday to accept a more than $365,000 federal grant to pay for two new full-time firefighters for two years.
City Council, which deadlocked 2-2 on the issue several weeks ago, voted during its regular meeting that featured a room full of firefighters and local residents who wanted the city to accept the grant.
Council members Peter Coccaro and Douglas Albrecht originally voted against accepting the grant, saying they did not think it fair to hire two more firefighters and then let them go at the end of the two-year period. Albrecht also said he wanted to see if the city could make better use of volunteer firefighters.
The vote to accept the grant occurred after Coccaro, City Council’s president, said he changed his mind after doing a lot of research on the situation.
“I strongly think that these two guys will be adjusted to respond to the safety and well-being of the citizens of our town,” Coccaro said.
But Albrecht said he is still worried about the possible financial commitment the city may face after the two-year period is over.
Vineland Fire Chief Robert Pagnini also told City Council recently that there is a chance the two new firefighters could replace Fire Department members who may leave in two years.
None of the city firefighters in attendance spoke during the meeting, but some residents spoke in favor of the grant.
Local resident Gary Galloway called the decision to accept the grant a “no-brainer.” The two firefighters hired by the grant money would be “trained firemen ready to step into the positions at no cost to the city” when other firefighters retire, he said.
The $365,452 grant comes from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, or SAFER, program.
Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency said the city would not lose the grant unless it gave a formal rejection notice to the U.S. government.
In other business, City Council voted 3-2 to reinstate the license for the Redwood Court mobile home park on North Delsea Drive.
City Council voted to revoke Redwood Court’s license several weeks ago after facility operators failed to pay about $4,000 in business-related fees to the municipality since 2011.
The decision to revoke the license — the first time the city ever took such action — came after the municipality served notices to Redwood Court operators.
All the fees have been paid, City Solicitor Alfred Verderose said.
City Council also reinstated the license after municipal Licenses and Inspections Director Robert Aussenberg said an Aug. 9 inspection of the mobile home park showed there was also “much improvement at the park.”
“The general conditions and park cleanliness, grass and vegetation on individual lots, litter and trash, unregistered and disabled vehicles are gone,” Aussenberg states in a letter sent to City Council.
“I feel that the park owners and managers are going in the right direction and understand that it is their responsibility, under the law, for all maintenance of the property and, ultimately, the homes.”
Aussenberg states in the letter that the city will hold random inspections at Redwood Court in the future.
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