NAPLES — Federal grants awarded this week will allow two Collier County agencies to start hiring, even as finances remain tight for local emergency service providers.
New Sheriff's Office deputies and East Naples firefighters are expected to cut back on residential burglaries and improve fire services, officials said.
East Naples Fire Chief Kingman Schuldt said the $1.7 million FEMA grant will allow the district to hire four firefighters and keep five others on the payroll.
A budget squeeze led the district to lay off nine firefighters in late October, though five were rehired in December. East Naples will offer the open positions to three of the firefighters who remain without work, the chief said.
"I'm absolutely happy for the members that will be back to work and for their families," Schuldt said. "(The grant) will allow us to orchestrate a deployment strategy that will provide the best level of service. By these people coming back, we will increase from 18 people a day to 19."
The FEMA grant also will allow East Naples to retain the five firefighters it rehired in December, since they have been paid with reserve money that Schuldt described as "deficit spending which we couldn't sustain."
Ideally, the district would have 21 firefighters per shift, a number that has not been staffed for about two years, Schuldt said.
For the Sheriff's Office, a $500,000 Department of Justice grant will help four post-9/11 veterans became deputies in Collier's community oriented policing program.
The grant will pay about 63 percent of the deputies' salaries and benefits for three years. The rest will come from confiscated trust funds, which is separate from the general fund and comes from forfeitures made by the Sheriff's Office, finance director Andrea Marsh said.
"We're very happy that we've been awarded (this grant), especially in these economic times that don't necessarily allow us to add positions," she said.
Ideally, the Sheriff's Office will be able to hire veterans who have already gone through training academy, Marsh said. Otherwise, the agency would begin recruiting through its existing partnerships with local veterans affairs groups.
The deputies are expected to help curb residential burglaries by increasing the Sheriff's Office's presence in neighborhoods of concern.
"Since we've hired so few law enforcement officers over the past few years, it's very great that we got this grant," Marsh said. "It really means four more deputies out on the road for citizens."