EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

October 8, 2009

Stimulus money saves Lawrence, Methuen fire jobs

Laid off firefighters in Lawrence and Methuen are headed back to work courtesy of $8.1 million in economic stimulus money released by Gov. Deval Patrick yesterday.

"It's absolutely great news," said Lawrence fire Chief Peter Takvorian, who was forced to close two of six city firehouses and lay off eight firefighters this summer due to budget cuts.

Patrick Driscoll, president of the Lawrence Firefighters Union, called the grant money "fabulous" and hoped the city would put it to use immediately to get firefighters back to work.

The state gave Lawrence $520,000 in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act discretionary funds, federal money officials said they will use to bring back eight firefighters laid off this summer.

Takvorian was unsure if the influx of much-needed cash meant he'd be able to reopen shuttered firehouses in the Tower and Prospect Hill neighborhoods. But doing so remains a top priority for him, he said.

"I hope to work closely with the mayor and the budget and finance director to get one or more of those houses open," he said.

He described the grants handed down yesterday "as the best news I've had in six months."

Methuen fire Chief Steven Buote agreed.

"I'm ecstatic. This has been a very good day," he said.

Methuen will receive $204,980 to bring back three firefighters who were laid off July 1, Buote said.

This is the first of a three-step process for Methuen, Buote said. The next step is to restore four firefighting positions lost through attrition and the final step is to restore funding from overtime cuts, he said.

He said Methuen was awarded nearly 100 percent of what it requested, "so this is fantastic news."

The $8.1 million released yesterday was earmarked for 13 departments across the state, including Lawrence and Methuen, that lost firefighters due to layoffs or attrition. Some 87 fire departments across the state applied for the funding.

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