City Council members at the Nov. 5 Special City Council meeting indicated some of their preferences for and opposition to certain specific items in the proposed City budget for 2019, but they took no action – not even straw votes.
Public safety and parking matters dominated most of the discussion, and some aldermen said flat out they did not wish to closes Fire Station 4, as is presently proposed, and the rest seemed concerned the safety ramifications of closing a fire station. Police Chief Richard Eddington and Fire Chief Brian Scott told Council members the probable effects of the proposed reductions, layoffs and eliminated positions: reduced response time and increased overtime, among other things. Holding vacant positions open rather than eliminating them altogether would be preferable, because that leaves open the possibility of restaffing those positions.
A recent audit of the Police Department’s command staffing may result in the consolidation of some departments and changes in deployment. Since the City hopes to have a new police chief by the time Chief Eddington retires, at the end of this year, these are things the new chief will consider. Whether the Fire Department should or might change its deployment will be an item for study over the next several months. At present, said Chief Scott, calls for medical emergencies outnumber those for fire suppression. He said the Fire Department, in partnership with a foundation at Presence St. Francis Hospital, is looking for ways to provide longer-term care for those who use 911 emergency services as their principal medical service.
There was twofold concern over the proposal to double rates at downtown parking meters: that it focused only on meters in the downtown area and that the proposed increase is steep. Aldermen suggested they would like to see the increase phased in over two or three years and that the increase should be City wide. Sunday parking-meter fees, if they are to be implemented, would begin in the afternoon. The time the metered parking would kick in would be determined after City staff consult with ministers of churches in the greater downtown area.
Taking Council concerns into considerations, the City Manager will present a new proposed budget at the Nov. 12 City Council meeting.