$400k grant has Youngstown Fire Department, city council at odds

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) –¬†Late Thursday afternoon, Congressman Tim Ryan announced a $400,000 federal grant for the Youngstown Fire Department to allow a ladder truck on the south side to remain operational.

But a couple hours later, city council questioned accepting the grant after hearing there may be the need for layoffs next year.

“I would hate to see us lose that fire truck,” councilwoman Lauren McNally said.

The meeting was to discuss if a ladder truck at the Indianola Avenue station should be taken out of service — or to find the $130,000 needed for fire department overtime.

Fire Chief John O’Neil told council that the federal grant was coming to Youngstown, if accepted by the city.

“The SAFER grant allows us to hire four personnel and take our staff back to 127,” he said.

One requirement of the SAFER grant is that Youngstown must maintain 127 firefighters over the life of the three-year grant.

After Finance Director Dave Bozanich warned that next year’s budget will be tight — with layoffs possible — councilman T.J. Rogers questioned accepting the grant, should laying off firefighters become necessary.

Chief O’Neill said not accepting it would be an embarrassment.

“I think it would be a really, really bad reflection on the city to turn it down,” he said.

Council suggested asking other departments if they had extra money.

Some council members even agreed to give the fire department their $5,000 in travel expense money.

But when the mayor and finance director didn’t have any other solutions than to take the truck out service, councilwoman McNally became frustrated.

“It seems like we’re not getting a whole lot of feedback from the administration at this table today with suggestions or options,” she said.

In the end, Mayor John McNally agreed to keep the ladder truck operational for one more week to see if there are, in fact, other options.