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City hopes to get grant money for police use; Rehiring 31 recruits is one goal.

Byline: Nick Kotsopoulos

WORCESTER - The city hopes to obtain grant money to rehire 31 police recruits and continue funding another 24 police officers.

City Manager Michael V. O'Brien is seeking authorization from the City Council to apply for funding through the Edward J. Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Recovery Act program, to make up for federal grant money it recently lost out on that would have financed 24 police officer positions.

The program, overseen by the state Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, is making available $5.9 million to law enforcement agencies statewide that have experienced staffing reductions since July 1, 2008, because of budget reductions, according to Police Chief Gary J. Gemme.

He said the grant money can be used to restore laid-off police officers, retain officers who would otherwise be laid off during the current fiscal year, as well as restore or retain civilian employees in the Police Department.

The chief said the Police Department, in conjunction with the city's Grants Office, is working on an application to request the restoration of the 31 police recruits who were laid off in April, right after they graduated from the Police Academy, because of budget cuts.

In addition, the department is seeking funding so 24 police officers can be retained when grant money now being used to pay their salaries runs out Sept. 30, he said.

"Our grant application will be for full salaries and benefits of these 55 officers for the one year of the grant and totals $4.3 million," Chief Gemme wrote in a report that goes before the City Council tonight. "There is no city match required."

The Police Department was forced to suspend its Summer Impact Program Aug. 1, in response to the department not getting a federal grant that would have been used to continue the 24 police officer positions. The grant now used to pay those officers' salaries expires at the end of September; the savings generated by suspending the Summer Impact Program will enable the Police Department to retain those officers through Nov. 30.

About $1.5 million is needed to pay the salaries and benefits of the 24 police officers for a nine-month period, covering Oct. 1 through June 30.

The city manager has said those police officers could end up being laid off if the city is unable to obtain grant funding to pay their salaries. The city had applied to the U.S. Department of Justice for money from the federal COPS Hiring Recovery Program so it could retain the 24 police officers after Sept. 30. Money from that would have financed the 24 police officer positions for three years, but the city was bypassed in the recent round of funding.

"While the city did not receive federal COPS funding, we are hopeful that receipt of funding from this current Byrne grant round will assist us in potentially restoring positions," Mr. O'Brien said.


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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Aug 11, 2009
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