POWELL — Liberty Township was awarded a $1.95 million grant in support of its fire department, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced Sept. 14.
Liberty Township will receive $1,953,736 in Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) funding for 100% of salary and benefits for six new firefighter/paramedics for three years, FEMA said. This was the third-largest award amount granted in the United States for the award period. The township trailed only the two major cities of New Orleans and Jacksonville.
Liberty Township is said to be the first SAFER recipient to receive 100% funding for new staff since the grant program began in 2003. Generally, SAFER grants require a local government match or contribution during the award period.
SAFER grants help local fire departments and volunteer firefighter organizations to increase or maintain the number of frontline firefighters to comply with standards established by the National Fire Protection Association, a press release said. FEMA, the awarding agency, is a part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“We are honored to have been selected to receive this highly competitive grant, and for the opportunity to bring on these additional firefighters to the department,” Fire Chief Tom O’Brien said. “This is a great day for the residents of Liberty Township and the city of Powell.
“In awarding such a large SAFER grant, FEMA recognized the critical need for additional safety personnel in Liberty Township to adequately meet the increasing service demands from our growing community,” O’Brien continued. “With grants such as this, we will be able to continue to exercise fiscal responsibility while delivering improved services.”
Liberty Township has two fire stations — one on Liberty Road and one on Sawmill Parkway — both with Powell addresses.
“Incredible news,” Liberty Township Board of Trustees Chair Shyra Eichhorn said on Facebook. “You hit a grand slam for this community.”
More formally, Eichhorn also said, “Over my seven years of service on the (Liberty Township) Board of Trustees, Liberty Township residents have sent a clear message that they expect excellent local and safety service delivery using creative funding mechanisms. This is an example of the fire department rising to that mandate and improving service for our residents. At the beginning of the year, we met with township staff and encouraged them to seek out ways to increase our service levels by leveraging new funding streams like grants and awards. I commend Chief O’Brien and LTFD staff for applying for SAFER funds and bringing home such a significant award.”
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.