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Federal grant allows City of Lockport to hire back a laid-off firefighter

LOCKPORT – A $212,298 federal grant will be used to hire back a laid-off city firefighter for two years, according to Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey.

The grant, allocated through the Department of Homeland Security’s Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, or SAFER, was announced Thursday by Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence.

In announcing the award, the mayor said that this is the first time the city had applied for the SAFER grant.

“We are pleased to have been awarded this grant,” she said. “This grant will ensure that our Fire Department is able to effectively respond to the emergency needs of our community.”

Fire Chief Patrick K. Brady said during a Fire Board meeting several months ago that rehiring laid-off firefighters was the plan when the city applied for the grant. Only vacancies that opened in February can be filled with the grant money, and the only vacancy was one created with the Dec. 11 retirement of Fire Chief Thomas J. Passuite.

But Brady said the grant would go for the salary of a firefighter, not the chief.

Lockport laid off a dozen firefighters in 2014 and 2015 because of budgetary constraints, including two in June, which dropped the department’s personnel level to 33, one less than authorized. In June, Brady said the SAFER grant would be used to bring the department to full strength.

McCaffrey thanked Collins for his help in obtaining the funding.

The congressman said: “Providing the necessary funding for our first responders is an excellent and prudent use of federal money. Our local fire departments need essential funding to recruit and hire individuals fit to protect our communities. Many small fire companies do not have the funds for an efficient hiring process, let alone money to promote available positions in the department.

“This funding will put qualified individuals in roles where they can serve the community in Lockport.”