FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — Fall River Mayor Paul Coogan delivered his annual State of the City address Tuesday night, highlighting both success and challenges in the city.
When it comes to public safety, the mayor said the city will use American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to continue investing in police, fire and EMS.
The city’s police department has also been struggling with recruitment, just like other departments across the country.
“Our officers have done a tremendous job these last few years under extremely difficult conditions,” Coogan said. “However, our goal is to fill the department’s vacancies, so officers have the support and manpower they need.”
The city has agreed to provide loans to new recruits heading to the academy to pay for their upfront expenses. Those who serve at least five years in the department will be given loan forgiveness.
ARPA funds have also been used to buy body cameras for officers and the software needed to run them.
“The body camera program for our officers is expected to be rolled out by the summer, and we hope it will increase trust and transparency between the police and the public,” Coogan said.
Coogan said the city has also purchased new police cars, as well as medical rescue vehicles and a ladder truck for the fire department.
“Over the last few years, our public safety agencies have become key players in our efforts to address issues of mental health, substance abuse and homelessness,” the mayor said.
Like communities across the country, Fall River has seen an increase in homelessness. Coogan said they will be opening the city’s first homeless drop-in center.
“Individuals can access the support they need, whether it’s assistance with housing, employment or mental healthcare,” Coogan explained.
Through federal funding, a six-person “FAST team” will connect people in crisis with help 24 hours a day.
“Fall River has also received a large part of money from the national opioid settlement and we are working with a consultant to inventory our current services and make long-term plans on how to use these funds,” Coogan continued.
He also noted he is working to expand affordable housing for those in the city.
Coogan is currently finishing his second term in office and plans to run for re-election in the fall.