About $1.75 million in stimulus money has been awarded to South Shore communities this fall to rehire 18 laid-off firefighters, hire nine new ones and boost their overtime and per diem budgets.
Kingston will also get $15,000 for its police department to cover overtime costs.
Gov. Deval Patrick on Monday announced the second phase of stimulus grants for public safety: $17.8 million for 35 police departments and 85 fire departments across the state to retain and rehire staff.
Locally, three police departments and 11 fire departments benefited. Oct. 7 when six South Shore communities got a portion of $8.1 million for rehiring laid-off firefighters.
Nearly 150 cities and towns received more than $15 million in police grants from the federal government earlier this year, said Terrel Harris, spokesman for the state Executive Office of Public Safety.
There was no comparable opportunity for fire departments, he said.
South Shore fire chiefs – who were required to apply for the money and outline how it would be used – reported Monday that they received less than they requested.
Rockland Fire Chief Robert Dipoli, who also serves on the executive board of Fire Chiefs Association of Massachusetts, said he was prepared for that.
His department received nearly $187,000, or about 40 percent of what it requested.
He said he knew that, statewide, the amount requested by departments was nearly double what was available.
Area chiefs say they have different plans for how to use the money.
“I was hoping for a little bit more, to tell you the truth,” Chief Ronald A. Nastri of the Taunton Fire Department said. “Beggars can’t be choosers, though; I’ll take what I can get.”
The department was awarded $129,290, roughly half the amount it requested. Nastri said he hopes to hire two firefighters with the money and spend the rest on overtime pay to increase day-to-day staffing levels. The department’s last three retirements have gone unfilled, he said, reducing manpower to 121 firefighters.
The Plymouth Fire Department, which recently eliminated five positions through attrition, was awarded $174,225 of the $232,300 it requested.
Fire Chief G. Edward Bradley said the money will be spent exclusively on overtime pay for firefighters to “keep the manpower up to a level that’s safe.”
Hiring firefighters requires months of training time and thousands of dollars in equipment expenses.
“(Our firefighters) already have gear, and they’re trained,” Bradley said. “This way we get more bang for our buck.”
Some departments that applied for money said the scaled-back amount they were awarded is less than what it costs to hire someone.
Braintree was awarded $32,301 after requesting $161,500 to hire, train and equip two new firefighters.
The amount is too small to hire even one firefighter, so the town must now determine if federal guidelines permit it to be spent on overtime instead, said Peter Morin, chief of staff to Mayor Joseph Sullivan.
Abington Fire Chief Arthur Pelland said his department will spend its $43,579 grant on overtime as well.
An 8 percent budget cut this year forced the department to reduce one of its four shifts from five to four firefighters, which means the fire station is occasionally unstaffed.
Pelland said the grant, half what the department requested, is not enough to hire a firefighter to cover the shift. Instead, he hopes the money will cover overtime expenses.
Carver’s on-call fire department was awarded $20,310. Firefighters there are paid per call, not a salary.
Chief Craig Weston said the money should be enough to train four new firefighters and bring manpower to 74, one shy of the department’s target.
“Any amount that we receive is graciously accepted,” he said.
Harris, the spokesman for the state’s office of public safety, said departments will need to sign contracts with the state to receive the funding and may be allowed to resubmit their budgets to better reflect how they’ll use the money.
For example, Dipoli, the Rockland chief, said he may now want to spend his money on staff support instead of new hires.
“The money is only good for 12 months,” he said. “We need to consider how the budget will be next year.”