BUCKHANNON — Buckhannon City Council has approved a budget of $5,433,106 without funding three additional firefighters requested by the Buckhannon Fire Department in support of seeking position grants.
The budget originally presented by Finance and Administration Director Amberle Jenkins on Thursday night included $200,000 for the three career firefighter positions that would come from savings from CARES Act funding used in other areas. . Board members have expressed their desire to fund all three positions, but how to fund them continues to be a topic.
But Councilor CJ Rylands offered to look at new funding opportunities with news that additional grant opportunities under the CARES Act had been posted, including $100 million for first responders and an additional $200 million for SAFER grants.
The town of Buckhannon twice applied for SAFER grants to fund additional fire stations, but did not receive the funding.
Jenkins said the narrative was unclear as to why the town of Buckhannon did not qualify for a SAFER grant in the last round.
“We are not getting more CARES money”, she says. “The $200,000 would be an available balance. We received funds through the CARES Act to reimburse us for our expenses. These expenses were the salaries and benefits of the police and firefighters. We actually have about $800,000. Through budget revisions, we put $300,000 into a rainy day fund. We invested $30,000 in Brushy Fork property to build a road. We have filled a void of $35,000 in insurance claims. We also spent $30,000 on the theatre.
Jenkins said there was also a roof repair.
“We think we will have a carryover to next year,” she says. “It was money from the general fund that was reimbursed for expenses.”
Rylands said: “If we are given the opportunity to apply for a SAFER grant for three firefighters for three years, this is a potential grant of $600,000 which will cost us nothing.
“If we go ahead and hire them and pay them out of the general fund, we can’t ask for reimbursement for something we’ve already done. Why not roll the dice and see if third time is a charm and we get that $600,000 that covers the cost of firefighters for three years? »
Councilman Dave Thomas said he knew Fire Chief JB Kimble would prefer new firefighters to start on July 1, but he thought Rylands made a good point.
“It’s a good comment and we should think about it seriously,” he said.
But Councilor Pam Bucklew made a motion to pass the budget with the inclusion of the hiring of three new firefighters.
“I think it’s still our responsibility to take care of the emergency services in this community,” she says. “The fire department showed us year after year how many fewer volunteers they had, how many more responsibilities they had. They proved to us that it was necessary. I think it’s time to step in and give them what we feel is necessary for this community.
Thomas asked, “Is it the city’s responsibility to take care of 100% of the first zone due? »
Reger, joining by telephone, seconded Bucklew’s motion, but the motion ultimately failed, with only Bucklew voting for it. Reger said he would withdraw his second in favor of pursuing grant opportunities.
Thomas said: ‘I’m not against hiring three new firefighters, but I’m against saying we should do it two or three months early when we might have the option of getting a $600 grant. $000. I said very vehemently that I believe when we hire firefighters we could use some of the money left over from what we received earlier. I am very convinced that at some point we will have to have a right of first maturity. If we are required to accompany our full-time firefighters to the area of prime expiration…the county has some responsibility and they haven’t increased their fire costs in 21 years.
Council discussed a fire levy as a way to fund the three new fire stations, but took no action.
Bucklew asked, “So if we don’t get the grant, that means we’re not hiring the firefighters? Is that what you say?”
Thomas replied “No. If we don’t get the grant, I would make a motion that we use that CARES money while giving JB the option to hire someone by July 1 or August 1. I’m not saying Not that we don’t, Pam I’m just saying it’s more responsible for us to wait 30 days and see.
City recorder Randy Sanders said: “The American Recovery Act is brand new to all of us. Let’s take the emotions out of it. Let’s continue to use our steady hand on our trust expenses and take the next two weeks and study it, ask the right questions and see if there is has a chance to align those funds and manage them that way. If that’s not possible, then we go back to that plan.
Thomas introduced a new motion to approve the budget without the $200,000 for firefighters, which was seconded by councilor Mary Albaugh. Thomas asks that funding for firefighters be put on the next agenda. The budget passed with Bucklew voting no.
The budget had to be approved at Thursday’s meeting for submission to the state by March 28, as required, but Jenkins said revisions could be made.
Bucklew said, “I hope everyone supports what they say yes they want three new firefighters. It’s needed in this community.
Other highlights included in the budget reviewed by Jenkins are a wage increase of 30 cents per hour for full-time municipal employees and the allowance of $1,000 or $2,000 for each full-time municipal employee for a health savings fund, a $5,000 increase for Upshur County Development Permission for a total of $40,000, a new roof for Buckhannon Town Hall at $120,000, $127,856 for police capital expenses such as cruisers, computers and body cameras, CALEA and other small equipment purchases.
In addition, $17,000 of this money will go to police department volunteers. There will be $140,938 for capital expenses for fire truck payments, NFPA expenses, GIS expenses, computer, volunteer expenses, stair master and new hoses. Another $22,000 will go towards participation equipment.
There is also $135,000 in the Consolidated Public Works Commission for the maintenance of city parks and to supplement the salary of the horticulturist. Jenkins said mowing at the cemetery will be outsourced this year.
An additional $282,000 has been allocated for paving projects.