Michigan Firefighters Threaten Suit Over SAFER Grant Renewal

IAFF Local 1306, Jackson, Michigan Professional Firefighters, is threatening to file suit against the City of Jackson if the administration follows through it its plan to return $700,000 of unused SAFER funds and lay off ten firefighters.

The city received a $1.9 million SAFER grant in 2012 to hire and retain nine firefighters. The grant expires on August 31, 2014, but due in part to major concessions by Local 87, about $700,000 remains unused. According to Union President Thomas Loveberry the $700,000 would allow the city to extend the grant an additional fifteen months. Such grant extensions are routinely granted.

The city however plans to layoff ten firefighters, and is refusing to consider seeking an extension. The union claims that would violate a provision in their collective bargaining agreement that requires the city to apply for another SAFER grant in 2014.

Jackson City Manager Patrick Burtch denies the city is obligated to seek an extension. In the balance is AT LEAST $700,000 is available funding that will simply return to the federal coffers if the city has its way… not to mention the loss of ten positions on the department.

More on the story.

Incidentally, Jackson is about 60 miles from Taylor, Michigan, where in 2012 the city council had to sue the mayor to force him to accept a SAFER grant. Mayor Jeffrey P. Lamarand was very nearly incarcerated for contempt of court before his attempt to eliminate 32 of 53 firefighters was reversed.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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