FEMA to meet with Petersburg over missing grant money

FEMA to meet with Petersburg over missing grant money

PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) - The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is going to meet with Petersburg officials over the missing money for the city's firefighter grant.

In May 2015, the fire department was awarded an Assistance to Firefighter Grant totaling $625,250.

As a condition of the grant, the city was responsible for just $56,840 of it. Last week, one of the Richmond-based companies that was supposed to be paid with grant money re-possessed $390,000 in firefighter equipment because the bill had not been paid.

"FEMA is aware of concerns with the Petersburg's Assistance to Firefighter Grant and are going to meet with officials from Petersburg for more information," said FEMA Press Secretary for the Office of External Affairs Alexa Lopez in a statement Tuesday.

A date for the meeting has not been released.

The money from the grant was specifically earmarked to buy new turnout gear and to buy 53 self-contained breathing apparatuses (SCBA). Those are the masks and tanks firefighters wear as they go into a burning building.

Chief Deputy Brian Sturdivant led the charge to get the money and is the grant administrator.

"It was earmarked for this particular purchase, and it should not or could not have been utilized for anything else," Sturdivant said.

In the grant application to FEMA, he told the government, "30 percent of our members have gear that is 10 years or older."

He said getting these new breathing apparatuses would "increase safety and reliability for our firefighters to effectively do their jobs. Regardless of the type of incident, there is a minimum amount of equipment a firefighter must have to do their job. So, while we have many trained and willing people here to do the job, we can't put enough safely into a fire to make a difference."

"It was an even greater morale boost when we started receiving the equipment and supplies, when we started receiving the equipment. So this is a bit of a step back for us as an organization," said Sturdivant.

Through an open records request, NBC12 obtained the invoices showing the city's purchase for $390,000 to a Richmond-based company. According to Petersburg Fire, that bill was never paid in full. So where is the grant money that can only be used to buy this equipment?

In an interview Wednesday night, Acting City Manager Dironna Belton would only say, "We have to investigate it."

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