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September 18, 2020 - 11:09am

City fire department's emphasis on obtaining grants is making a difference

The Batavia City Council passed four resolutions this week to accept just shy of $75,000 in grants for the City of Batavia Fire Department, continuing what Fire Chief Stefano Napolitano describes as placing a priority on maximizing taxpayer dollars, meeting community needs and operating as efficiently as possible.

“Absolutely,” Napolitano said this morning to a question as to whether there is a concerted effort to find grants.

“We work together as a team to secure grants and accept gifts and donations. Our goal is to stretch that one dollar of taxpayer money into a dollar fifty or two dollars – to be fiscally responsible.”

During Napolitano’s three-and-a-half-year tenure as chief, more than $400,000 in grant funding has found its way to the fire department.

He said these grants – ranging from Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance to New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee funding to the Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program – are especially vital in the wake of budget cuts brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“All departments in the city have had to make cuts and, of course, any cuts in a budget can affect your operational readiness,” he said. “These grants, even as little as $800 for bicycle helmets, enable us to support young children and families that don’t have adequate bike helmets or have helmets at all. Then we work with local suppliers to try and stretch that $800 into $1,000 worth of equipment.”

An $800 grant for bicycle helmets from the NYS Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee was one of the four accepted at Monday night’s City Council meeting. The others were as follows:

  • A grant for $68,880.95 from FEMA for the purchase of a fire and carbon monoxide alarm system and sprinkler fire protection system throughout fire headquarters on Evans Street and to fund specialize water rescue training materials and labor costs;
  • A grant for $1,638 from FM Global for the purchase of a high-tech camera, lens, lighting and security case for use at fire scenes as well as an iPad for the command vehicle for rapid uploading and sharing of photos with other investigative agencies;
  • A grant for $3,500 from the NYS Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee to purchase car seats.

“We get the car seat grant every year, but our firefighters have to recertify regularly to be certified safety seat technicians,” Napolitano said. “This grant is so helpful. You would be amazed how many people that don’t have means to get them.”

While he oversees the grant applications and submissions, Napolitano said that “every grant that we have received is a team effort.”

“In many cases, I delegate to individuals who specialize in the area of a specific grant,” he explained. “We wouldn’t be getting these grants without so many firefighters and officers doing the legwork.”

Napolitano announced that Christopher Shea is the department’s most recent hire, raising the staff’s numbers to 32 firefighters (two short of a full complement) plus the chief and administrative clerk.

Shea currently is classified as a recruit firefighter candidate and, after 14 weeks of training, will be promoted to probationary firefighter for the next 18 months.

The chief praised his firefighters, who belong to IAAF (International Association of Fire Fighters) Local 896, for their civic and community involvement.

“They support numerous organizations not only with their money but with their (volunteer) time as well,” he said.

In other action, Council:

  • Authorized the issuance of $420,000 in serial bonds to purchase a jet-vacuum truck for use in sanitary sewer, water system, storm sewer system and highway maintenance operations. The amount includes the purchase price of the vehicle ($380,000) plus the costs of the issuance as permitted by law.
  • Approved the acceptance of a $9,024 police traffic safety grant from the NYS Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee. About 20 percent of the funding is earmarked for seat belt enforcement with the remainder to support efforts to reduce speeding, aggressive and distracted driving and other dangerous driving behaviors.

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