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Selectman Stands Behind Grant

First Selectman Gordon Joseloff isn't giving up on a grant that would help pay for eight additional firefighters to join Westport's force. That is despite the Board of Finance and two Representative Town Meeting committees recommending against it.

Accepting the Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) grant would give the town $1.2 million to hire more firefighters. The catch is, after the new recruits complete two years of service the town would have to pay their salaries and benefits for at least a third. Neither board nor committee could justify committing the town to an estimated $800,000 expense.

Joseloff met with members of the firefighters union to discuss the issue. "I am encouraged by our discussions," he said in a released statement. "The firefighters understand the town's dilemma about taking on new personnel at a time of higher pension and health costs."

Joseloff said he expected the union to send him a letter which addresses the pension costs for the newly hired firefighters. During the last Board of Finance meeting he thanked the members for expressing their concerns. They wouldn't give their support for the grant without some evidence the union or department would be able to reduce operating costs to compensate for the eventual extra wages and benefits.

Joseloff sent a RTM Moderator Hadley Rose a request to postpone consideration of the SAFER grant. The full RTM meets Tuesday night, and the grant discussion is on the agenda.

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