Fulton council, department heads discuss budget

With multiple departments making requests from a limited general fund, the Fulton City Council will be weighing several needs when considering next year’s budget at its July 23 meeting.

The council heard from several department heads, including the city police and fire departments, the parks and recreation department and the street department, regarding needs they face.

City Administrator Bill Johnson noted that while all departments with budget requests had a valid need, finances present a roadblock to ensuring each gets what it wants.

“From a financial standpoint, the utility funds are in pretty good shape but the general fund doesn’t have the revenue stream to let everyone get everything they want or need,” Johnson said. “We’re seriously looking at priorities, but will not be able to fulfill everyone’s goals.”

Fire

Half of Fire Chief Dean Buffington’s staff has been with the department for fewer than five years, and most are from out of the area, he said. He attributes a high turnover rate to staff leaving for neighboring departments with higher base salaries.

“I have someone in charge of an apparatus with less than two years seniority,” Buffington said. “It’s not good to have someone who wasn’t familiar that Fulton even existed two years ago doing that.”

In addition to increasing starting pay from about $21,500 to $27,100, Buffington requested the council consider changing from the current 48-hour work schedule to an industry-standard 56-hour week.

Buffington noted this would also potentially help earn the city a higher Insurance Service Offices (ISO) rating.

“A 56-hour week would mean about one other man per shift without hiring any more people, plus it would be going to an industry standard work shift,” Buffington said. “I’d still be behind our neighbors, but not so far behind.”

Police

The Fulton Police Department has seven regular patrol cars, but Police Chief Steve Myers said residents might not realize that driving the city’s streets.

“Right now out of seven cars, we may have four on the road at a time,” he said. “We haven’t gotten cars for two years now, and we’re having a lot of mechanical issues with some of our vehicles presently.”

Myers hopes his department can land three new vehicles — potentially Ford Explorers — to replace the older vehicles with ongoing maintenance problems.

He couldn’t give an exact figure on cost as it would be dependent on a state bid for police vehicles, which will be re-bid later this year.

Additionally, Myers’ budget request includes funds for replacement bulletproof vests. Myers called the vests a high safety priority with a five-year lifespan, and noted they were 75 percent funded through grant money.

Parks

For Parks and Recreation Director Clay Caswell, his proposal was about moving park events inside.

His department is seeking council approval to help fund an indoor recreation facility to host park-organized events, banquets, meetings and community gatherings. A location for the potential facility has not been finalized, but Caswell said a primary point of interest would be at Veterans Park where the old shoe factory awaits demolition later this year.

The building’s multipurpose room would also function as a tornado shelter in order to apply for a FEMA grant, which would pay for 75 percent of the project up to $3 million should the city qualify.

Not included in the budget proposal but also on Caswell’s mind were development of a four or five-field baseball complex and needed renovations or replacement to the aging Oestriech Swimming Pool.

Road

City Engineer Greg Hayes has put a request in for a new truck and equipment to primarily help with snow removal.

The city’s road crews have a fleet of six dump trucks used to haul asphalt or gravel in the summer and clear snow in the winter. Hayes said that one of those trucks, an aging model from 1997, has maintenance issues that cost the city $6,000 during last winter’s major snowstorm.

“We get a lot of phone calls and the citizens are demanding about when they get this snow removed from their roads and alleys,” Hayes said. “Usually we can plow the town very well on a significant snow and get it down in an eight-hour day. If we don’t get this truck replaced and it goes down, you’re maybe stretching that to a 12-hour day. Again, that would be a sixth of our fleet going down.”

Other snow-related requests would be to equip an existing city tandem-axle truck with a plow and spreader to assist in snow removal. The new plow, spreader and equipment would cost an estimated $95,000 to $100,000.

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