Nebraska City Gets, Rejects SAFER Grant

Another jurisdiction has turned down a federal grant that would have paid for firefighters.

Grand Island, Neb. has rejected a SAFER grant it was awarded to pay for six new firefighters for two years, according to

The city council authorized Fire Chief Troy Hughes to apply for the grant in June 2009. It would have covered about $720,000 of city expense for six new firefighters -- about $60,000 per employee per year, officials told reporters.

Hughes said there was substantial risk in accepting the grant.

"It was one that would have required us to maintain the same staffing levels for two years with no decrease in staff," he said. When asked whether firefighter or public safety layoffs are expected, Hughes had no direct answer. The chief explained: "We were instructed to not accept it, and we have given notice that we are rejecting the grant."

Hughes had been advocating for additional firefighters since he became chief in November 2008. The city last added fire staff in 2000, when six firefighters were hired.

Last month, Cleveland officials turned down a $4.5M SAFER grant that would have helped keep firefighters on the job.