Camden Fire Department fights to save jobs as federal grant expires
The city of Camden is trying to find a way to prevent laying off more than two dozen freighters as a federal grant that allowed them to be hired is set to expire.
“I don’t want to see any of our members have to come and surrender their turnout gear and uniforms and all and walk out of this building with no employment,” says Camden Fire Chief Michael Harper.
Harper says that he is working tirelessly with other officials to prevent the layoffs.
"A lot of them are starting families and they're buying their first houses and things like that. The last thing they want to know is that their job as a firefighter, which is so important, is in jeopardy,” he says.
The Camden Fire Department received a $5.2 million grant from FEMA three years ago to hire 27 firefighters. But that funding will run out in June.
“The new grants still exist, but you can’t use it for retention and we don’t have the resources to meet the demand of paying those salaries,” says Camden Mayor Frank Moran.
The city is now looking for options to save some money and keep the jobs.
“Now we’re just looking at ways to cut or save. But it’s really not many places that we can do it without losing people,” Harper says. “Even the people that we have that are eligible to retire, we lose people and they’re not replaced and you still have a reduction in force, which is going to hurt the service that we provide.”
The mayor says that he is doing everything in his power as well.
"I am collectively working with my fire administration, the fire unions, the state, the federal government to do everything we can possible to prevent any layoff, recognizing that my obligation is to present a balanced budget to the state,” Moran says.
The fire department will present its plan to cut costs to the mayor’s office next week, with the hopes of getting a place in place soon.
The current funding runs out at the end of June.