The City of Athens has brought in some outside help in hopes of obtaining grant funding for the city’s firefighters.

The Athens City Council will decide next Tuesday night whether the city will apply for an Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security — FEMA. This grant money is designated for enhancing public safety and the safety of firefighters.

The request comes from Athens Fire Chief Brandon Ainsworth, who explained at Monday’s Council study session that, if awarded, the funding would be used to replace the 28-year-old SCBA (Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus) Cascade Compressor System at Athens Fire Station No. 2. The device is used to fill the firefighters’ breathing air bottles.

“It’s got to be replaced and it’s about $60,000,” explained Ainsworth.

The funding would also be utilized to purchase new SCBA harnesses and bottles at a cost of about $220,000. These would be used to outfit the city’s two new fire engines, which are scheduled to be ready by November.

“Those have to be purchased either way,” said Ainsworth. “This is an opportunity to seek federal dollars to pay for it so our local tax dollars don’t pay for it.

“We’re trying both projects,” he continued. “Who knows? We may get one, we may get both, we may get none.”

If the Council decides to move forward with the application, it will be for an amount not to exceed $275,000. The local match for this grant program is just 5% of the total project cost.

The application period for the current fiscal year closes on Feb. 12. The city applied for the same grant in fiscal year 2019 for the same purpose, but was unsuccessful.

To bolster the city’s effort in its attempt to secure this grant funding, it has hired a grant writer for a flat fee of $500.

“This specific grant writer focuses only on AFG grants,” explained City Manager C. Seth Sumner.

Ainsworth added that the grant writer has a success rate of more than 86%. The grant writer has previously been able to obtain grant funding for Niota to build a new fire station and purchase a tanker and engine, as well as money for other McMinn County agencies.

“His success rate is good,” said Ainsworth. “Who knows what’s going to happen with us? We don’t have that answer, but we need all the help we can get to try to go get that money.”

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