City council's override vote could jeopardize county grant

By Tom Lehman 4:59am, July 28, 2014
New Castle County Executive Tom Gordon said a $225,000 grant to the Wilmington Fire Department will be recalled if city council members override a mayoral veto of a bill cutting $511,000 that funds eight vacant firefighter positions.

WDEL's Tom Lehman reports...

Some county council members called for the grant money to be returned if the override is passed on Tuesday, Gordon said, citing their concern that the city was cutting its expenses while receiving financial assistance from the county. The allocation has been included in the past two budgets.

The move could follow a vote by city council on Tuesday. Members will be voting on whether to nullify Mayor Dennis Williams' veto, which scuttled a bill that cut funding for eight firefighter positions that are currently vacant.

"They're concerned that they're giving them money, only for them to cut the budget," he said. "That was my direction, and I'm operating under the direction of county council."

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Although the county's budget was passed in May, the grant money has not yet been given to the city fire department.

However, Gordon said county council members, including Council President Chris Bullock (D) and Councilman Bill Bell (D-Middletown), are asking him to return the money if the override vote is successful.

"They will not be receiving (the grant) if they do the cuts," Gordon said.

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City Council President Theo Gregory, one of the council members who supports the cuts, briefly spoke Sunday night about the possibility of losing the grant on a leased access television program.

Appearing on a talk show hosted by Councilman Ernest "Trippi" Congo, who voted against the cuts, Gregory (D) said the city is still saving money by cutting the positions. He argued the net savings that would result from the use of rolling bypasses would outweigh losing the grant.

"Why should I beg the county for ($225,000) when I'm gonna' cut $1.1 million?" Gregory said.

Fire Chief Anthony Goode, who also appeared opposite Gregory to debate the issue on the program, said the county's grant was used to help pay overtime costs.

"We utilize those funds for overtime as a supplement to keep units in service," Goode said.

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