The Village of Oak Lawn agreed to accept a federal Safer Grant Award totaling $1,347,952 over a three year period for the purpose of hiring seven firefighter/paramedics in order to mitigate against rising overtime costs.
The grant acceptance was approved at Tuesday’s meeting after Fire chief George Sheets recommended that the board accept the grant, which requires the village to pay about $837,917 of non federal funds over the three year period while the rest of the $2,185,869 comes from the federal government.
Sheets explained to the board that the SAFER grant program is designed to assist fire departments with staffing and deployment capabilities in order to respond to emergencies and assure that the village has adequate protection from fire hazards.
SAFER grants are not intended to plug budget holes and are to be used to hire new, additional firefighters, which the village plans to do due to the retirements of several firefighters over the last several years that were not replaced.
According to Sheets, the grant will reduce overtime expenditures. If the village reduces its current overtime, which has been the subject of litigation as well as political discussions, by 700 work days a year, the grant will end up being revenue neutral or a break even proposition for the village.
In the past, the SAFER grant process has been ignored by the Mayor and village board because the firefighter’s union would not agree to changes in minimum manning. However, this acceptance is not contingent on any labor negotiations with the union.