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City denied grant for ambulance staff

PLANS MADE — Fire Chief Carlo Capaldi speaks to Steubenville City council during Tuesday’s meeting. (Photo by Linda Harris)

STEUBENVILLE — The city won’t be getting federal grant money to staff its new ambulance service.

City Manager Jim Mavromatis said he’d been notified Steubenville’s application for a SAFER grant — Staffing For Adequate Fire and Emergency Response — didn’t make the cut.

The city has, however, been able to use federal CARES Act funding to acquire two brand new ambulances, and is thinking about picking up a third one to have as a backup when one of the others it out of service. They’ve also been able to use grant money to equip them.

“The SAFER grant, that would have been the easy route,” Fire Chief Carlo Capaldi said. “If we’d got the SAFER grant, we would have been hiring nine guys and getting on the road, but that’s not going to happen.”

Instead, Capaldi told council he plans to fill the three slots they’d already budgeted for his department.

“We need 10 people to run one ambulance, we have nine,” he said. “If we can get 10 people we can put one ambulance on the road. That’s basically the three people we’re short or we can … pay overtime until we get it on the road.”

“We’re still about a week to 10 days away from everything being ready to go,” he added. “We have a couple things left … some software we’re training on, we’ve got a drug order to put in, and we’re waiting on some iPads, but it can be done.”

Capaldi said the city squad wouldn’t be able to handle all of the emergency calls that come in with two ambulances, much less the one they’re going to start with. He said they’ll continue to rely on mutual aid partners.

Based on the call volume some of them have reported handling in the city, Capaldi told council he figures they can easily average seven calls a day, “so that’s the income we used to figure out this budget.”

“We’re going to have to do some training runs with them, see how that works,” he said. “There’s a lot involved with this, a lot that is changing. But it’s going to get done.”

“I’m not saying that’s going to be exactly what we do,” he said. “It’s a little concerning when you don’t see money coming in to start it, we don’t want to bust the budget when there’s no track record. I think what we need to do is get that one ambulance on the road, get some revenue coming in and start generating more revenue.”

Capaldi said much as he’d have liked winning a SAFER grant, FEMA’s decision to extend the application deadline and waive a requirement for matching funds meant more communities suddenly had projects to pitch.

“I think what they did this year was they extended the application deadline and waived the matching funds (requirement),” he said. “I think when they did that it hurt us, I was ready to go with the matching funds and the (normal) deadline. A lot of communities that didn’t have (funding) got involved.”

Capaldi, though, said one of the department’s three new recruits will be sworn in Friday.

“You had three guys budgeted,” he said. “I wouldn’t look to push for more than that until (we gauge how things are going). But those three we’re going to need.”

Council also was updated on the West End water projects, which would include constructing a new storage tank. The looped system would ensure residents of the downtown as well as the West End, where the city’s “critical users” like Trinity Health Systems, Eastern Gateway Community College and Harding School, as well as a host of businesses, are concentrated.

Water Superintendent Jim Jenkins said the existing, 1.5-million-gallon tank behind EGCC needs cleaned out, stripped down, repainted inside and out and completely overhauled.

“This project is to assist in that” Hendrix said.

Hendrix said the pump station “would go on our land, intersection of Tweed Avenue. City does have property.

“That’s where it was intended to go, where it was designed to go. Tank would go on a piece of private property, so I’m in negotiation with the property owner.”

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