New Bedford Fire Chief fights for funding

 New Bedford Fire Chief fights for funding
By: Melissa Randall
Like many local communities New Bedford’s fire department is short on man power, down 17 positions, and high on overtime costs. To make up the difference rolling blackouts are not uncommon. That means on any given day one of the 10 fire houses in the Whaling City may be closed.
“In a perfect world I would prefer not to ever have to black out because I’d like to my entire firefighting force available to serve the citizens when ever they need it,” said Chief Michael Gomes of the New Bedford Fire Department.
The practice has been in place since 2009, but now they are happening more frequently. Resident Victor Sanchez lives near Station 6 and fears what could happen.
“We need them around. There’s a firehouse right down the street. If they’re not around who knows how long we’d have to wait?” he asked.
The salaries of 63 firefighters are currently paid for by a ‘Safer Grant’ that will expire at the end of the year. The city budget is looking to pay for 32 jobs. Hoping to avoid layoffs Chief Gomes has re–applied for federal funding to cover the other 31. The department is asking for 6 million dollars over a 2 year period. This will be the third time the community applies.
“The fact that we’re asking for 50 percent less than what we’ve asked in our previous grant— I think it’s moving in the right direction and moving 32 of these firefighters on to what we call fund one for the city is a great positive step towards going forward,” explained Gomes.
The ‘Safer Grant’ is need based and very competitive. With 14–thousand calls a year the Chief is keeping his fingers crossed that the money will come through.
New Bedford’s budget for fiscal year 2016 begins July 1st.
© WLNE-TV 2015