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Council wants more time before adjusting budget

Adjustments to the Richmond City budget will have to wait until next month.
The council took no action on a budget adjustment with City Administrator Rick Childers and City Finance Director Melanie Allwood absent from last night’s City Council meeting.
New council members also said they wanted more time to evaluate the budget before making any decisions.
Before last night’s meeting, the Public Safety Committee finished its examination of the Fire Department budget. On Monday, the committee reviewed the city police and dispatch budget.
At issue for new Councilwoman Terrie Stanley is the Fire Department’s SAFER grant that funds two firefighter positions. The grant is for five years and is a gradual phase in. The first year, the federal grant picked up 80 percent of salary and benefits for two firemen. Each year the federal portion decreases and the city is responsible for full salary the fifth year.
“They wanted to make it easier for cities to put manpower on,” Assistant Fire Chief Mark Sowder told the committee. “So at the end of the grant period they were phased in.”
The third year of the deal began this past December.
Councilwoman Terrie Stanley said she questioned the flexibility the grant lacks. The grant requires the department to maintain nine firefighters.
“In my opinion, the Safer grant for lack of better words holds the city kind of hostage,” Stanley said.
Fire Chief Lonnie Quick disagreed and said there was a real need for the additional firemen. He said the federal government did a study on the city’s fire department with strict guidelines attached.
“You can get by with anything, but we have a responsibility to our citizens first and we also have a responsibility to our firefighters,” Quick commented about the need.
The Council also approved a grant for an exhaust system in the fire station. The city has a five percent match of about $850.
Chairman Bob Bond said he likes the use of grants. He said in his position as director of Ray County Board of Services he utilizes as many grants as possible.
“It’s better to use someone else’s money than mine,” Bond said.
Quick said his plans every year are to come in under budget. He said sometimes firefighters work on off days to help out.
“A lot of times they’re here donating time because they understand the situation of the budget,” Quick said. “I tell them all the time, ‘you need to stop doing that,’ but we couldn’t get the work done and they realize that.”
Quick acknowledged the department is over budget in some areas. Overtime budget hours are almost exhausted. Quick said that was due to high call numbers in February for grass fires. The department’s utility budget is also out of line. Quick said it’s due to the unknown factor of a new building and doors that do not close in the wintertime. Quick said he plans on addressing the door issue.
“I realize in some areas we’re over, but we’re still holding our own on the overall and that’s what I plan to do,” Quick said.
Overall, the committee said they were pleased with the department’s status.

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