Ambulance service, public works occupy big chunk of Cole County budget

The heads of the departments that make up Cole County government talked with county commissioners on Thursday about their departments’ needs for next year.

The meeting was part of the annual process of creating a budget for the next fiscal year.

Last week, County Auditor Jim LePage presented his proposed budget with $61.4 million in revenue for expenditures for 2014, compared with $59 million in 2013.

Total expenditures for 2014 would go up about $1.8 million from last year, going from $45 to $46.8 million.

Most officeholders had few changes with what was being proposed, but all would like to see more money for their staffs.

LePage added a 3 percent raise for all employees given as a combination of a cost-of-living adjustment and a merit/longevity component.

Commissioners asked department heads to continue to keep fuel costs and overtime costs down as much as possible.

Among the bigger department budgets, the ambulance budget for next year has the commission possibly approving the expansion of the ambulance/emergency management base on Southridge Drive.

The commission, along with Ambulance Director Mike Shirts and Emergency Management Director Bill Farr are working on a plan to include remodeling and adding more space.

Commissioners have said that they don’t want to spend more than $1 million on the project and the funds would come from county reserves.

Earlier this month the commission approved the purchase of two new ambulances for a price of $128,980 for next year.

This completes the county’s five-year plan of replacing the fleet of 10 ambulances.

Public works department projects planned for 2014 include:

• Business 50 in Apache Flats, $3,600,000;

• Low water bridge on Vaughan Ford Road, $300,000;

• Paving of the remainder of Millbrook Road, $500,000; and

• Asphalt/chip seal overlays throughout the county, $1,000,000.

County projects that will be designed in 2014 include:

• Sidewalks along Pioneer Trail and Rainbow Drive;

• A bridge on Liberty Road; and

• Stormwater improvements in the Woodward Subdivision.

Cooperative projects with Jefferson City in 2014 include work on Frog Hollow Road for $1,350,000 and intersection improvements with signals at Lafayette and Dunklin streets for less than $500,000.

All these projects are funded through the county’s half-cent sales tax.

Commissioners must adopt the budget by Jan. 10.

Over the next few weeks commissioners will meet to talk about the budget among themselves.

Those meetings, and all other commission meetings, are now available to watch online. You can go to www.colecounty.org and go to the link that says “Watch Commission Meetings Live.” Commissioners approved getting the equipment earlier this year to stream their sessions and over the past couple of months the county clerk’s office and the county’s information technology service personnel have been working to perfect the system.

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