The Malden Fire Department will receive more than $2 million in the latest round of federal grants, to restore firefighter positions eliminated last year after a contract impasse led to budget cuts, according to one city councilor.
In a monthly newsletter to constituents, Ward 1 councilor and mayoral hopeful Gary Christenson said the city would receive the money and the mayor would rehire the firefighters.
Eight Malden firefighters and two dispatchers were laid off last summer, and two lieutenants demoted, after talks with the firefighters' union and the city broke down. Mayor Richard C. Howard said in June that the negotiations over health benefits, the issue that has proved a wedge between the sides, were no closer to resolution.
Different from previous years, there will be no condition to maintain the grant-funded positions after the federal money runs out in 24 months, Christenson wrote.
That provision was topic of much debate this year, as the Fire Department worked with federal officials on its application for the round of funding. Last year, the city gave back $768,000 in SAFER cash because the program required the city to maintain the positions with its own money after the federal dollars recede.
Originally, the city applied for $2.2 million, an amount that could have funded up to 17 positions for two years. The recent grant, while for slightly less, will likely fund at least the 10 jobs lost in layoffs, and is a strong indicator that few, if any, substantial cuts are in the future for the department, which this year was essentially level-funded.