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Watertown Fire Department seeks SAFER grant to increase staffing to 72

Payne Horning
WRVO News (file photo)

The Watertown City Council passed a resolution authorizing the city fire department to apply for funding from the US Department of Homeland Security for the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant. The department seeks to increase staffing from 68 to 72.

The Watertown Fire Department SAFER grant is seeking $1,279,000 from FEMA to support eligible expenses of the additional four firefighters over three years.

The council asked if they were being proactive enough and asked if they should look to hire more. Fire Chief Matthew Timmerman said a staffing of 72 is most cost-effective.

"Regardless of whatever retirements we have over the duration of the grant, we'll backfill those," Timmerman said. "Those positions will stay right at 72, right up through the end of the grant, regardless of how many retirees we have."

The SAFER grant application is due March 17 and would hear back from FEMA between June and the end of September. Timmerman expects total savings from a successful application would total roughly $1,356,000 over three years.

Ava Pukatch joined the WRVO news team in September 2022. She previously reported for WCHL in Chapel Hill, NC and earned a degree in Journalism and Media from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Ava was a Stembler Scholar and a reporter and producer for the award-winning UNC Hussman broadcast Carolina Connection. In her free time, Ava enjoys theatre, coffee and cheering on Tar Heel sports. Find her on Twitter @apukatch.