Joliet studying firefighter grant
By bob okon firstname.lastname@example.org August 8, 2012 7:42PM
Updated: September 10, 2012 1:42PM
JOLIET — The city is doing more homework on a firefighter grant after Councilwoman Jan Quillman pointed out a waiver that might resolve worries about indirect costs tied to the money.
Quillman learned of the waiver after asking to see the grant, something that other council members said they were not able to do previously.
The federal grant, designed to beef up local fire departments depleted by city budget cuts, would give Joliet $2 million to pay for eight new firefighters for two years.
But some city council members are worried about a grant requirement that the city maintain a force of 210 firefighters — the 202 on the fire department now plus the eight that would be hired with the federal money.
It was not clear how the council would vote Tuesday, when Quillman noted a waiver that could allow Joliet to avoid filling future vacancies if it can show economic hardship.
“We could apply for this waiver and then we wouldn’t have to keep the 210 that’s on the table right now,” Quillman said.
The council voted unanimously on Tuesday to table the vote until Aug. 20 so staff could research how likely it would be for the city to be granted the waiver.
Some council members on Monday had complained that staff had not provided them with a copy of the grant to review before the meeting. A vote on the grant was tabled Monday at Quillman’s request, because she said she wanted to read it first.
“There’s a point in this grant that we didn’t know about earlier unless you read the grant,” she said Tuesday.
Fire Chief Joseph Formhals is urging acceptance of the grant, saying the additional firefighters would allow the department to run at full force and avoid overtime costs likely to run up to $2.4 million through 2014.
Formhals said Wednesday that he had overlooked the waiver clause before discussing the grant with the council. But he questioned whether a future waiver for Joliet would be likely given the goal of the grant is to bring fire departments back to full force.
“That’s the way the grant is written,” he said. “That’s the way it fell into place in my mind.”