Thread: Battle over grant funds in NY
11-10-2010, 09:30 PM #1
Battle over grant funds in NY
So what the consensus of the great minds here?
Is this an appropriate use of grant funds , while others do not have the basics such as PPE or SCBA?
N.Y. Village Officials Question AFG Grant Award
The Journal-Register, Medina, N.Y.
Posted: Wed, 11/10/2010 - 03:58pm
Updated: Wed, 11/10/2010 - 03:59pm
Nov. 10--MEDINA -- It was a struggle for power during Monday's Medina Village Board meeting, with every village firefighter in attendance. Upset, the Medina firefighters arrived ready to argue their case to board members.
In January, the department was chosen to receive a $108,299 federal grant that was part of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program. This same grant has been received by the department in past years and has gone toward the purchase of portable radios, turnout gear and a new fire engine.
This year's grant raised a red flag when the board learned that $70,000 of the grant would go to physical fitness equipment and another portion toward purchase of carbon monoxide monitors. The rest of the grant is planned to go for upgrades to a diesel exhaust system.
Board members say when they gave the fire department the go-ahead to pursue the grant, they were told the department was seeking funds for the exhaust system, not the carbon monoxide monitors or exercise equipment.
Mayor Adam Tabelski said the extra components were not mentioned when the grant was authorized and that the minutes of that meeting reflect that.
Fire Chief Todd Zinkievich maintains that the board was aware.
The issue mainly pertains to the $70,000 worth of physical fitness equipment. The fire department applied for the grant, stating that the equipment would be used to create a fitness center in city hall.
"One very important aspect that I have never been able to offer these people is the opportunity to have a workout room where they can get physically fit to better prepare themselves for the dangers they are facing," Zinkievich said. "We have an opportunity here with this grant to put physical fitness equipment in the fire station."
Zinkievich said the project was envisioned to have a fitness center that is open to every village employee. He wanted a place where the firefighters would workout at while off duty, also making them available to answer calls, having more manpower at the station throughout the day.
Trustees said they have many concerns, though they said they feel the overall health and fitness of their employees is important.
One of their main concerns is the liability of having the equipment on village property. Trustee Andrew Meier said that if someone was injured while working out on the premises, there would not only be a worker's compensation liability, but a potential 207A liability, which would require the village to pay the difference in salary between worker's compensation and the normal wage. The village could also be responsible, depending on the injury and claim, to pay upwards of $1 million over the next 30 years to individuals who were hurt.
"That is enormously significant," Meier said. "Anything we do to increase our exposure to that kind of risk when it's occurring on site is going to be met with great scrutiny by the board. This village government doesn't have a lot of money to throw around. Our taxes are extraordinarily high and they continue to be, despite our best efforts to keep them lower. Our task as board members is to try and limit our risks; limit our liability."
He also asked that if the equipment was on site, how would they guarantee that the equipment is used properly.
"We're a municipal government, not a fitness facility or gym," said Meier. "We don't have the kind of procedures and policies in place to make sure the equipment is used properly."
Another concern is where the equipment is going to go. The grant scope listed the equipment as going into the former clerk's office, a now vacant space on the main floor of city hall. Tabelski said that is a space the board controls ,and there might be another need for it in the future.
"You asked us to consider where we're putting this equipment," Tabelski said. "That's the perfect question. Why is the question being posed to us now? In my opinion, a better time to have this conversation would have been when the grant application was being developed."
One of the board's final concerns was the maintenance, upkeep and replacement of the equipment down the road. Although the equipment comes with a three-year warranty, board members asked the fire department if it would be OK with not replacing equipment years down the road.
"We're looking now at an ongoing replacement program with an additional cost to the taxpayer," Meier said. "With every additional piece we take on, we're increasing our maintenance costs. We're trying to be conservative with taxpayer dollars. We're trying to limit our risks and our exposure to future obligations, as well as liability."
The board suggested coming to an agreement with the local YMCA as a solution. Board members said they would like to see the $70,000 worth of equipment be installed there, have the YMCA maintain and replace the equipment in the future, and negotiate free memberships for village firefighters. They also see this as not only benefiting the fire department, but benefiting village residents, whose tax dollars helped fund the grant.
Although the board still needs to negotiate with the YMCA and determine if the Federal Emergency Management Agency would approve the equipment being off-site, Tabelski said he has a responsibility to the community and to do things that are in the best interest of the taxpayers.
"Health and well-being of every village employee is important to me also, and we're not trying to deny that at all," he said. "We're talking about a program we've never had before, so whatever we end up doing is going to be a step in a positive direction."
Members of the fire department took turns voicing their opinions on why they think the board is making a wrong decision by looking into an agreement with the YMCA. They expressed concerns about letting other YMCA members use the equipment, the hours the YMCA is open, daily policing and cleaning of the equipment, not having availability of machines when they arrive to work out and not wanting people outside of the Medina area to use the equipment, because the YMCA is now part of the Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming district.
"We have nothing against the community," Public Information Officer Jeffrey Elsenheimer said. "But the purpose is to assist fire departments that may not be able to obtain equipment to support their firefighters."
Another issue the department brought up is ethics. Zinkievich said he has a problem putting federally funded equipment into a place where someone is benefiting by charging memberships.
"I do not agree with this," Zinkievich said. "I do not support this. If the board decided to go down this avenue, I respectfully request that you guys remove me, start legal proceedings, whatever you have to do to remove me as administrator of this grant. I would rather risk being disciplined than to lose the respect of all these guys out here."
Board members asked Zinkievich if his employees would actually lose respect for him if he followed the orders of the chain of command and carried out the board's wishes, to which he answered, "Absolutely."
Several firefighters stood up, expressing their respect for Zinkievich. One said that he would let Zinkievich raise his son, but because of the "ethics you guys have on this thing, no chance" he would give the board the same respect.
"We're not interested in that," Tabelski interrupted. "We're trying to run a village here."
Another firefighter said their main problem is that the grant is not for the village or the community, it is for the firefighters, and they are going to stand behind the chief.
Another pointed out that while the village says it doesn't want exercise equipment on the premises, there has been various donated exercise equipment in the fire department since 1994.
No clear answer was arrived at by the end of Monday's meeting. The board said it plans to contact the YMCA and FEMA and continue to research all the options. The board stated that it is not necessarily opposed to the fitness center, but that it would like to investigate all possibilities. Representatives from the fire department's benevolent association spoke, asking if they were to take on any future maintenance and replacement costs, would that change the board's mind.
Still not wanting equipment on village property, board members agreed to talk about it further.
The board also authorized Zinkievich to move forward with the exhaust system as part of the grant and passed a resolution to remove him as grant administrator and make Tabelski the point of contact for the grant. Trustees also discussed the carbon monoxide monitors, stating that even though they were not told about this portion of the grant, it is more straightforward and poses very few questions.
11-11-2010, 08:46 AM #2
- Join Date
- Oct 2009
- Catlettsburg, KY
Hmmm... This is interesting. Actually I see both points on the issue. Although I do need to state that I always tell my Board what we are applying for on the grant. I met a little resistance on the training tower grant but after getting quotes from the insurance agent there was no resistance.
But again, firefighter fitness should be a top priority. I think the Board feels they had their toes stepped on. Putting the equipment in a YMCA is bad news. If the Board cannot agree to put it on public grounds for the firefighters then that portion of hte grant should be turned down.
11-11-2010, 09:40 AM #3
- Join Date
- Feb 2002
- Cypress, TX
Since I'm about to cut a check for my liability insurance for the business, I'm with the board. Of course any other time of the year I am too, there's no shortage of trial law associated with this situation of people getting hurt using fitness equipment improperly and winning nice $$ settlements for it. The departments I've been in down here all have equipment with strict SOPs governing the usage, ie proper exercises with the proper weights involved. In other words, exercise wrong and it's your own fault. Some of the paid departments with equipment and required exercise times on shift had to go through a training on the equipment before they could use it, then it's their fault again if hurt since they were shown the right way.
Then there's the basics, applying for a $70k project without approval to spend the matching money from the ones that hold the checkbook is always a good idea. I'm sure there are some bruised toes but the liability issue is bigger than all that. The Y idea won't float unless it's only city/FD members using it in a specificed room at the Y. The grant isn't for every citizen to utilize the equipment hands-on, just for FFs. Major liability there.
11-11-2010, 09:47 AM #4
This is pretty simple.
If you apply to buy something and you are awarded, you either buy it or you don't buy anything.
I don't know what their cost-share would be, but in any bracket I would think they could set aside whatever concerns they had about liability and just enjoy the bargain they are getting. If not, maybe their unused funds will find their way to me!"Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”
--General James Mattis, USMC
11-11-2010, 10:47 AM #5
Most interesting to me is how this grant was awarded back in Round 1 and nothing has been decided as of yet?
11-11-2010, 11:35 AM #6
- Join Date
- Jul 2007
- Monroe, MI
If I'm reading this right, they were awarded this grant last January. They are just now talking about what to do with the money? By the time they do all of the paper work and take the Chief off as the point of contact, their POP will be over and they will end up with nothing. I wonder what they wrote for their 6 month grant update?
11-11-2010, 11:50 AM #7
Village of Medina Fire Department Medina NY Operations and Safety $108,229.00 Equipment ($18,000) 1/29/2010
11-11-2010, 12:02 PM #8
- Join Date
- May 2000
- SW MO
While I can see both sides of this issue, the underlying problem is that before you apply for a grant you need your "I"s crossed and "T"s dotted.
If you're going to spend money that your board budgets you, it's wise to make sure they approve that grant project BEFORE you submit it. What the chief apparently did was encumbered his governing board with an expense they didn't approve in hopes of slipping it through, after they were committed. Not the best way to get things done.
11-11-2010, 02:02 PM #9
- Join Date
- Feb 2002
- Cypress, TX
They're not the only ones with Round 1 money unspent. Quite a few just finishing evaluations and recommendations on bids now. So much red tape in spending Uncle Sam's money some of the municipally tied FDs get stuck in it real bad and it takes forever to make improvements even with semi-free money.
11-11-2010, 05:45 PM #10
- Join Date
- Mar 2003
- Del Norte Co
My department was awarded 1st round and I had everything spent by April 1st. My philosophy is that if you make a request for money be prepared to be told yes and spend it. It does not do any good to request it if you plan on sitting around until the last minute to spend it. If what you are requesting truly is a "need" and not just a "want" this is not a problem.
11-11-2010, 06:55 PM #11
I think that the OP's original question was about how this money would be used when some departments have no ppe and scba.
I have to say, that $70k for workout equipment seems a bit excessive in light of what other departments in the US are working with.
Believe me, I believe in providing opportunities to make firefighters healthier, but $70k?
I didn't know they made gold-plated treadmills.I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.
"The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list."
"When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water."
11-11-2010, 09:04 PM #12
That was the primary point I was getting at. As long as there are Firefighters risking their lives to protect their communities without the basic needs, Should tax dollars be spent on obvious "wants, that in reality they cant even be bothered to follow through on. If they can't think of any other genuine need in basic equipment then maybe they shouldn't be asking for frivolous "wants.
I am not using "them" as an individual term. There have been many awards given over the years that just make you scratch your head and wonder why.
This is not to say that FF health isn't a real requirement to be capable of doing our jobs. Just that should 70k worth of exercise equipment be in the purview of this grant program.
There are many departments in this country that would sell their first born child to have a 70k/ year budget.
If they want exercise equipment there is plenty of it [truckloads] available for free through federal excess property dept. check with your states FEEP co-ordinator.
OK end of my personal rant. :-}
11-12-2010, 10:56 AM #13
- Join Date
- Sep 2007
I am from a small career dept in PA, and we just completed a fitness center within our station. It is used by FD & PD and consists of state of the art commercial grade equipment. The total cost of construction and equipment was just under 23K. So I say very greedy vs. needy.
ChiefKN gold plated treadmills wrapped with 1 carat diamonds.
11-12-2010, 04:36 PM #14
- Join Date
- Feb 2002
- Cypress, TX
Depends on what you get, commercial gym grade treadmills and other aerobic exercise machines run around $8-10k each. After all, if you want something to last better to buy the industrial grade stuff so it makes it 8-10 years instead of 1. I can see having 3-4 machines like that if you have 30-40 people participating in the exercise program, otherwise some would never get the chance to workout on one. Happens to me at the Y and they have a boatload. Defeats the purpose of the exercise program if people can't exercise. Now what should have been vetted in Peer Review was how many machines compared to how many people they have. Some of these awards land on PR and Tech Review to reduce in amount/scope. It's not this department's fault they gave them $70k, everyone here says ask for a little more in quantity price than needed, but DHS should scale back when appropriate.
Of course another thought is that no one could be mentioning that they have physicals or something else in the application that the reporter didn't mention. Even though we always get all of the information from the media when it involves the fire service...
11-12-2010, 05:36 PM #15
According to their website they have 13 career and 30 call/volunteer members.
They show 4 ambulances, 2 engines , a quint and a chiefs buggy for apparatus.
11-13-2010, 09:07 AM #16
$25K could easily be for physicals, immmunizations etc. of that with 43 members at +$500 each. I too see both sides o fthis coin here and agree with most of the points rasied by each group but, bottom line of this lesson is quite simple. The applciations development shodlbe comprehensive in nature and it was not because obvioulsy not all the hom.ework was done here. As BC79er pointed out the equipment can't be put at the YMCA and I would seriously question requesting equipment without a pre-designed and appoved place to workout. Bottom line here is the shoud return the unused dollar and revisit this "solution" once they have those other concerns worked out.Kurt Bradley
Public Safety Grants Consultant
"Never Trade Skill for Luck"
11-13-2010, 01:54 PM #17
- Join Date
- Dec 2002
- Rural Iowa
Differences in approach. I don't bring coulda, woulda, shoulda, maybe stuff to council. For every grant you fill out how many are you successful with? I take them this is what was successful and this is our match/portion and were it's coming from. They don't like it they can find someone else to run the place.
You get a $100000 grant and can't come up with the last $5k or $10k from other sources? You're not trying very hard. EVERY grant source likes to be the last $ (key guy) in. Getting the same guy to put up the FIRST $5k of a $100k project. That's much more difficult.
And as above, there are truckloads of commercial surplus exercise equipment coming out of DOD weekly. If you FFP/FEPP state forester is broken the state surplus office can get for you (you'll have to negotiate a payment for processing the paperwork/getting it moved).
11-14-2010, 08:05 AM #18
- Join Date
- Mar 2003
- Wilmington, Vt.
Kurt is right as well as several more of you. 70 grand is way too much $$ for the project. There's excellent used equipment out there for a fraction of that cost. Not to mention, there are A LOT of current Fire Act Grants written for LESS than a TOTAL of $70,000.00 that would benefit some very deserving small departments. Not that Firefighter fitness is not important, because it is. But the AFA people awarding this type of money shows me something's missing in this process! Looks to me like Extrication Tools, Air-Pacs, Gear, Thermal Imagers, & even Fire Engines are not too important anymore.
It's great though! We'll have a bunch of healthy & fit firefighters with no equipment.
Just my 2 cents...
11-14-2010, 08:32 AM #19
From the looks of their website , they don't have a whole lot of needs. already gotten PPE communications, Packs from past grants.
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