STEUBENVILLE - The city fire department has received $1,185,794 from the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response program that will allow the department to retain three firefighters and hire six additional firefighters for the next two years.
The grant announcement was made by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Thursday afternoon and confirmed by Mayor Domenick Mucci and fire Chief Carlo Capaldi.
"Firefighters put their lives on the line each day to keep our communities safe. These new federal resources will help ensure that Steubenville has the skilled responders and updated resources they need to safely do their jobs," Brown said in a press release issued from his Washington, D.C., office.
"I am extremely excited by this news. The fire department applied for the S.A.F.E.R. grant last year while I was serving as acting city manager. We knew the application process was very competitive but we were hoping we would receive the grant, and today we got that good news," said Mucci.
"We currently have 34 firefighters in the city department and this grant will allow us to return to the 40 firefighter staffing level. If a firefighter retires we will have a trained firefighter already on the force that will maintain our department staffing numbers," Mucci remarked.
The mayor said the Civil Service Commission has a firefighter entry level exam scheduled for May 3, and Mucci urged anyone interested to apply to take the test.
"There is a process used to hire firefighters and the first step is the entrance exam followed by additional tests. The hiring of additional personnel will not happen in the immediate future but we are moving in that direction," said Mucci.
City Manager Tim Boland called the announcement "some very good news for the city. We are now waiting for the official notification from the federal government."
According to Capaldi, "this grant will go a long way to provide additional staffing for our fire department and provide for the safety and protection of our citizens and our firefighters."
"It could be three months before we see the additional firefighters on the job. But I am extremely happy with the news. The S.A.F.E.R. grant acknowledges the need for increased staffing and increases the level of safety for our department," Capaldi noted.
The chief said the grant will remain in effect until 2017.
Assistant Fire Chief Mike Taylor. who also serves as the International Association of Firefighters third district vice president, said he was happy "the federal government recognized the need for proper staffing, and I hope local officials will also know our staffing levels are essential for the safety of all of us, residents, visitors to the city and the firefighters."
"Our department has been fairly successful in obtaining grants during the past several years," Taylor pointed out.
"I certainly hope the City Council and administration will consider re-opening the Pleasant Heights fire station with the hiring of six additional firefighters. That is something we will encourage them to look at," said Taylor.
The Pleasant Heights fire station was closed last May and the firefighters at that station were relocated to the downtown headquarters station and the West End fire station.
But Mucci said the S.A.F.E.R. grant application was not contingent on the re-opening of the Pleasant Heights fire station and noted he supports seeking a grant to conduct a study into a centralized fire station.