As deadline approaches, Dayton weighing decision to apply for firefighter funds

Dayton Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Lykins and Fire Prevention Specialist Bryan Adams discuss fire safety at today’s commission meeting.

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Dayton Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Lykins and Fire Prevention Specialist Bryan Adams discuss fire safety at today’s commission meeting.

Dayton leaders have about one day to decide whether the city will apply for millions of dollars in federal funding to support the fire department.

The Dayton firefighters’ union says the SAFER grant could provide up to $3 million to help the city add or maintain firefighters with some conditions.

But fire officials say COVID-19 crisis has upended the city’s finances, and the SAFER grant requires that recipients maintain firefighter staffing levels for three years, which comes at a time when the city of Dayton is looking at potentially laying off workers.

In a Facebook post, Dayton Firefighters Local 136 asked citizens to urge city officials to pursue all funding opportunities and keep its fire safety personnel.

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“To leave this money just sitting there, and then to consider cutting safety forces during a global health crisis, makes no sense at all,” Kraig Robinson, the union’s president, said in an online statement. “Dayton citizens deserve better.”

Dayton Fire Chief Jeff Lykins said the city had every intention to apply for the grant before the public health and economic crisis.

But the pandemic changed everything, and city leaders are worried about the budget and making commitments they cannot afford, he said.

“They really don’t know what the COVID fallout will be for the general fund,” Lykins said. “It’s hard to predict three years in the future.”

“I believe we would have applied this year, pre-COVID,” Lykins said.

SAFER grant applications are due at 5 p.m. Wednesday. City leaders have not yet decided whether to apply, even though the grant is written, Lykins said.

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The SAFER grant provides almost no flexibility, and recipients have to maintain certain staffing levels or risk forfeiting and having to repay the federal dollars, Lykins said.

City leaders might decide to wait a year to apply for the funding, Lykin said, though it’s possible the city could apply and turn down the grant, if awarded funding.

But Lykins said the grants are highly competitive and it’s unclear if turning down an award would hurt the chances of a future application.

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