ROCKLAND — Rockland firefighters/emergency medical technicians responded to more than 2,000 calls, including 300 suspected cases of COVID-19, during the pandemic.

But throughout that time, crews never altered their schedule, worked from home or veered off the path of serving and protecting this community, the president of the Rockland Professional Firefighters Union told Rockland City Councilors Sept. 8.

Firefighter Carl Anderson asked Councilors to consider that effort when it spends the more than $700,000 in federal grants from the American Recovery Act. He pointed out that the grants can be used to provide premium pay for eligible workers, including public safety workers who performed essential work during the public health emergency.

“We understand that when allocating funds, the process is lengthy and arduous to distribute evenly and to watch for the needs of the community. I ask the city Council to step up and join other cities and communities in the state as well as the country that have responded to this pandemic by rewarding your first responders for their commitment, dedication and bravery during this time,” Anderson said.

“The future is unknown and with the current events sweeping across our country we could be in for another round of this emergency level. One thing that is not unknown is that the commitment and dedication of your first responders in the city of Rockland. We will remain diligent and ready to go at any time.”

Anderson pointed out that the Rockland Fire Department has zero members test positive for COVID-19 and are at 100% vaccination rates.

“We do not want a pat on the back, nor a thank you for your service because we understand that everyone in this community knows the importance of our relationship and would never take it for granted,” he continued.

“All of the brave men and women of the Rockland Fire Department showed up every day in the midst of an unknown pandemic working diligently with Maine EMS and CDC guidelines that changed on a daily basis.

“We all threw caution to the wind and disregarded our own safety and the safety of our loved ones at home to ensure that not only we did our job in protecting the great citizens of this community but stayed the constant throughout the county working details, holding contactless fundraisers for families in need, vaccination clinics, recalls to the fire station for additional personnel because of overwhelming call volume in the county, and of course let’s not forget responding to over 2000 emergency calls including structure fires, cardiac arrests, car accidents and COVID-19 positive patients,” Anderson said.

On June 30, Knox County Commissioners approved using some of the county’s $7.7 million in federal aid — known as the American Rescue Plan — for retention bonuses for corrections officers, patrol officers and civil process servers. That consisted of $200 extra per week through the end of 2021.

The Commissioners initially declined to provide the same bonus pay to emergency communication dispatchers but reversed course and plan to vote on that extra pay at its Tuesday, Sept. 14, meeting.

Other cities in Maine and New Hampshire used money for their first responders.

Later, in the Sept. 8 Rockland City Council meeting after Anderson spoke, city officials briefly discussed the possibility of using the federal grant for the firefighters. City Manager Tom Luttrell said there will need to be a lot of work to do if the city is to use the money for such a purpose.

Mayor Ed Glaser spoke about the request.

“Rockland has a lot of infrastructure projects but our number one resource is employees,” the mayor said. “I want to find a way to reward them.”

City Councilor Louise MacLellan-Ruf said she agreed. The Council did not set a date for when it would discuss use of the federal grants.