It looks like Neosho is getting its firefighters back.

All of them.

It looks like Neosho is getting its firefighters back.

All of them.

City Fire Chief Mike Eads learned Friday that his department has been approved for a federal grant that would pay to rehire nine laid-off firemen for a period of 24 months.

The $780,643 SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant is administered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. No local dollar match is required.

Eads had applied for the grant in September, roughly one month after he was forced to let go of nine firefighters due to city budget cuts. The original number of layoffs was 11, but the Neosho Area Fire Protection District agreed to subsidize two firemen through this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

Now add nine more.

“It's one of those things that you pray for, for quite a while,” Eads said. “I guess 'relieved' is the best word to describe how I feel.”

The nine firemen have to be hired within 90 days of the grant agreement being formally accepted by both parties, according to Eads. Neosho interim city manager Harlan Moore said the issue would be on the agenda of the next regular city council meeting, on Feb. 15.

“This just means the city will have nine more firemen back on the job,” Moore remarked.

In filling the positions, Eads said first priority would be given to the original firefighters who were laid off.

That, said Moore, is “the whole point.” Eads said he has tried to keep in touch with all of them and believes most will return to their old jobs in Neosho.

“I think a good majority of them will come back,” Eads said. “I’d hate to speculate and say all of them will, but I feel comfortable that most of them will come back.”

As to what would happen after the grant expires in two years, Moore noted it was yet premature to tell.

“That’s too far down the road,” he said.

Asked if the positive news about the firefighter grant helped balance the fact that the Neosho police department was turned down last fall for a similar allocation from the U.S. Justice Department, Moore said no.

“We need the cops too,” he said.

Neosho Mayor Richard Davidson said the approval of the firefighter SAFER grant addresses one of the two public safety concerns that he has had since the layoffs last August. He said the grant takes the “fire equation” off the table as far as dedicating any excess monies from the general fund and puts the focus squarely on the police department.

“We’re going to get nine firemen back — nine firemen that Neosho needs to have back on the force — and the sooner we get them back the better,” Davidson said. “I’m tickled pink that we’re going to get this grant and that that gets to happen. It’s great news.”