Jan. 14, 2004 – The V.I. Fire Service will receive a $544,660 grant from the Department of Homeland Security, Delegate Donna M. Christensen announced on Tuesday.
The supplemental federal funding, for fire operations and firefighter safety in the St. Thomas-St. John district, is from the department's fiscal year 2003 Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, Christensen said in a release.
"The Virgin Islands was one of 151 fire departments across the country to be funded in Round 29 of this program," the delegate said. She commended recently retired Fire Service director Ian Williams Sr. "for once again submitting a competitive application that has yielded needed funding for the territory."
A bone of contention in the St. Thomas community has been the failure of the Fire Service to keep the North Side fire station in Dorothea operational. The facility was closed for several years, then reopened in June 2002 after extensive renovations, only to close again in mid-2003.
At town meetings in the last year, Williams said he had neither the budget nor the bodies to keep the station in operation. Officials have placed the cost of maintaining shifts on duty full time at $440,000 a year. (See "Residents find little solace in meeting".)
Meantime, a major issue within the Fire Service territorywide has been the failure of the government to implement raises granted to firefighters and fire supervisors in 2002 contract negotiations. Although the Legislature has appropriated funds for the increases, the Turnbull administration has said the money does not exist.
Federal funding comes with strongly attached strings that determine how the money can and cannot be spent. According to Christensen, the latest Homeland Security grant is to enable the Fire Service in the St. Thomas-St. John district to "to purchase the tools and resources to protect the health and safety of the public."
More specifically, she said, the grant is to be used for training, wellness and fitness, firefighting equipment, personal protective equipment, and modifications to fire stations and facilities.
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