Westport denies grant request to help hire firefighters

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WESTPORT -

Members of Westport's firefighters union say they're frustrated with the town's decision to deny a federal grant request to help hire more firefighters.

Union representatives say in 2010, Westport was approved for a $1.2 million federal grant that would have allowed the department to hire eight additional firefighters. The town turned down that grant, citing concerns about pension costs.

The union says this year, after renegotiating their pensions, they hoped to apply for the federal aid again but say the first selectman's office wouldn't support the drafting of a new grant request.

Union president Nick Marsan says the Greens Farms and Coleytown stations each currently have only two firefighters per crew.

"The national standard is four firefighters per engine, but we understand that there's a cost associated with that," Marsan says. "We're asking for three, and more importantly, we're asking why the town isn't even going to consider it."

Fire Chief Robert Yost said in a statement that, "The town government has set the level of fire protection for the town and negotiated a minimum staffing per shift with the Fire Union. We will continue to do the job with the resources that we have been given."

Westport's finance director told News 12 Connecticut that the current staffing level reflects what the union negotiated for last year and that once funding on that federal grant ran out, the town would be stuck with a bill it couldn't pay.

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