More than $390K worth of Petersburg firefighting equipment repossessed

Published: Aug. 18, 2016 at 4:28 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 18, 2016 at 11:39 AM EDT
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PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) - The Petersburg Fire Department confirms more than $390,000 worth of new firefighting gear has been repossessed.

"Well, it is a unique situation," said Petersburg Deputy Fire Chief Brian Sturdivant. "I have to make sure that it's understood that this has no safety impact whatsoever to our firefighters."

The equipment was meant to replace the old Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus that allows crews to go running into burning buildings when others are running out. Sturdivant says crews are now stuck with the old equipment.

"Professionally, as a firefighter," said Sturdivant, "It is a bit of a concern."

NBC12 investigators uncovered documents revealing the fire department turned to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a gr ant that was awarded on May 1, 2015, to purchase the equipment.

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

So what happened to the money?

"That's a great question," remarked Sturdivant. "I think that's a city manager question."

Acting City Manager Dironna Belton, who has only been on the job for a few months, says the city failed to restrict gr ant money. Federal dollars earmarked for one project were put into a single pot, then the city would decide how to use that money.

Belton says that process is no longer allowed under her leadership.

"Because of the amassing of debt over a number of years, it really became a little hard to keep up," said Belton. "And so that's what we are dealing with. We are currently fighting our way out of a financial crisis. We have plan."

Belton says she has been in constant contact with Mayor Howard Myers.

NBC12 asked Belton if any laws have been broken.

"I have to look into what equipment exactly is being referred to ... the company that the invoicing was done and again the gr ant source," said Belton. "At this point, there has not been anything illegal done."

Myers agrees.

"In spite of all that you hear," said Myers, "we are resilient. We are positive, and we are ready to move forward."

There appears to be no guarantee firefighters will get that new equipment.

"We're still investigating it," said Belton. "I'm literally still investigating."

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