Planned layoffs of Chambersburg firefighters held off in hopes of grant money coming through

June 25, 2012|By JENNIFER FITCH |

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Plans to lay off eight Chambersburg Fire Department firefighters July 1 were put on hold Monday by a unanimous vote of the Chambersburg Borough Council.

The council and administrators are hoping a federal grant will be awarded to save the jobs.

“The grants are extremely competitive, but we are working diligently on the matter,” Solicitor G. Bryan Salzmann wrote in a memo presented at Monday’s council meeting.

Borough Manager Jeffrey Stonehill said he could not immediately recall the amount being requested in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security SAFER grant application. However, he said the money would be used to preserve jobs for two years.

In his memo, Salzmann referenced a “general fund crisis” in the borough.

When developing its 2012 budget, the council indicated it could not sustain paying for 21 firefighters throughout the year. It notified the firefighters’ union of plans to lay off eight people July 1.

The council voted Monday, though, to delay those layoffs, with the goal of receiving the SAFER grant. SAFER stands for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response.

“Our application has yet to be denied,” Salzmann wrote. “To the contrary, we have actually received what we perceive as hopeful indications along the way.”

Salzmann said he plans to present council members with more information on July 23 or sooner. He suggested a “temporary stay” regarding the layoffs.

Emergency Services Chief William FitzGerald, who is assisting in the grant process, said he is optimistic the jobs will be saved.

In response to public comment criticizing possible layoffs, Borough Council President William McLaughlin explained that road maintenance, police and fire service, and recreation initiatives are expenditures from tax revenue. Other sections of the budget are largely tied to the borough’s utilities systems, which generate their own revenue.

The council reduced its police department by two positions for 2012 through not replacing officers who left, Stonehill said. Cuts have been made in nonuniform staffing, too, he said.

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