Public safety budget requests were presented by Police Chief Ron Kirby and Fire Chief Rick Harrison at Wednesday’s Tooele City Council meeting.
Kirby said during his budget presentation the 30-year-old police station building at 323 N. Main Street needs to be replaced.
“She has done a wonderful job with 30 years of service,” Kirby said. “Prior to that, she served for 20 years as Bradshaw Auto Parts.”
Estimated cost from the city staff for building a new 30,000 square-foot police station is $7 million, according to information given at a town hall meeting at City Hall last week.
The police and animal control departments amount for 31 percent of the city’s general fund.
Mayor Debbie Winn said the city plans to meet with a proposed architect next week to discuss a possible design for a new public safety building.
Kirby spoke for about 45 minutes and presented 17 slides to inform the public at the meeting about the various facets of the police department budget.
He said he has served for 19 years as police chief and has never been asked to present a proposed budget to the public at a city council meeting.
“This is a first, so I commend the mayor,” Kirby said. “We understand that money allocated comes from the hard work of our citizens.”
Winn said she asked Kirby and Harrison to present their budgets first because she feels public safety is the most important part of the city’s budget.
Three other city department leaders will present their budgets at the next three city council meetings as the council prepares its budget for the 2019 fiscal year that runs July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019.
Tooele City Parks Department will present its proposed budget at the March 21 city council business meeting.Two more department leaders will present their budget requests in April leading up to a May 2 deadline to adopt a tentative budget.
Kirby said that Animal Control was not asking for an increase in its annual budget of $250,000.
“We are a people business, so 82 percent of our budget is for personnel,” Kirby said.
“What I would like to talk about is capital expenditures, which is money that resides here at City Hall, and is not a part of our operating budget,” the chief said.
“The best way I can put it, our police building has provided us with wonderful service and has been there for us, but needs to be honorably released,” Kirby said.
The chief spent several minutes showing slides of the dilapidated police station. He said he has often been asked by people how many officers he would like to have.
“There is not an easy answer,” Kirby said. “We currently have 1.02 officers per 1,000 residents, or field three to four officers at any given time. The short answer is we need more officers. We are an extremely busy police department, as busy as any department I know of.”
However, he said there are limiting factors to hiring more police officers because of lack of office space.
“We really don’t have any office space or parking,” Kirby said. “If I immediately had six more officers, there would be no place to put them.”
The chief said the department is attempting to be competitive with police pay and benefits to reduce turnover.
“We can’t lose that fight, because if we get behind, it becomes a limiting factor,” Kirby said.
He requested an additional patrol officer, a school resource officer, a community service officer and two additional crossing-guards for Sterling Elementary.
He also requested money for travel and training, building operation and maintenance, and establishing a five-year rotation for computers. The requests tally approximately $10,000.
Winn said the staff still needs to figure in salaries and potential new positions before it can come up with an overall public safety budget for fiscal year 2018-19.
Fire Chief Harrison spoke for about 30 minutes. The fire department budget amounts to 3 percent of the city’s overall budget.
He said the fire department budget for last year equalled about $400,000, but he is requesting $800,000 for this year.
Two major requests for increase in the fire department budget are for communications because of a change in radio improvements statewide that will leave municipalities with a big bill.
Harrison said that is why he is requesting a jump from $13,000 to $100,000 in the communications line item to meet statewide standards for radios during the next few years.
Another major jump in the budget request is for machines and equipment. That line item jumped from $57,000 to $200,000.
Harrison said the department owns three brush trucks with water tanks that are rusting out. The department plans to replace metal tanks with poly plastic tanks.
He said breathing apparatus bottles also need to be replaced at $1,000 each. The department plans to replace 25 bottles this year, 25 next year and 25 the following year.
Harrison said the department’s budget requests “are needs, not wants.”