The town of Middletown this evening announced that it is in line to receive substantial federal grant money to add more staffing to fight fires and handle emergencies.
According to a press release from the town, local officials got word late today that $1.76 million in Staffing for Adequate Fire Emergency Response (SAFER) funding was heading to the town. Over the summer, the town applied for the money in hopes of helping offset the cost of eight new firefighters.
This evening, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed and U.S. Rep. David Cicilline reached out personally to the town to pass along the good news, according to Matt Sheley, Public Information Officer for the town of Middletown .
“The town of Middletown is extremely fortune to be represented by an outstanding federal delegation,” Town Council Robert Sylvia said in a statement. “U.S. Sen. Jack Reed and Congressman David Cicilline led the way on this one, working tirelessly on our behalf.”
Sylvia added the federal grant money was about more than just adding new firefighters.
“Having the ability to hire eight new firefighters will help immensely in bringing our Fire Department up to the adequate staffing levels that we need to best serve our community. We are extremely fortunate and thankful to have been selected for this grant.”
At the beginning of the year, residents and members of Middletown Fire expressed concerns the community was too reliant on other departments to respond to fires and other emergencies.
Hearing that message, the Middletown Town Council designated money in the fiscal 2021 budget to bring on eight new firefighters. At the time, council members said the hope was the SAFER grant money would come through.
Interim Fire Chief Robert McCall said the grant money and all the new hires will allow the department to have eight firefighters per shift no later than July 1, 2021. Previously, Middletown Fire staffed five firefighters per shift.
“Even with the increase over the past couple months, it allows us to transport two patients to the trauma center at Rhode Island Hospital at once, when before, we could only do one,” McCall said in a statement. “What this money allows us to do is put more fire apparatus and engines on the road as well as firefighters and that’s resulted in a big boost in morale. Firefighters want to have as many tools in the toolbox to do the job and this allows for that and we couldn’t be more thankful.”
Up front, the grant will pick up 75 percent of the cost of the new firefighters. The town will pay the remainder through its Rescue Wagon Fund, money that comes from insurance payments for ambulance rides.
For the fourth straight year, the town did not increase its tax rate even with substantial additions like the eight new firefighters while addressing challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Friday afternoon, four new probationary firefighters were appointed during a ceremony in Town Hall. Anyone interested in the remaining vacancies was asked to reach out to McCall at 846-1031, town Human Resources Director Casandra Bennett at 846-5781 or visit hr.middletownri.com online.
Town Administrator Shawn J. Brown said in addition to McCall and Bennett, Finance Department Accountant Deb Carlisle and Principal Planner Rita Lavoie were instrumental in compiling information for the SAFER grant application.
“When we got the word from Sen. Reed and Congressman Cicilline, there was a real celebration,” Brown said. “We are so appreciative for their efforts. This money is going to go a long way.”