The West Jefferson council Monday evening, Dec. 2 approved the village’s budget but not without some discussion about certain line items. Receiving attention from council members Corey Coburn and Steve Johnston was the increase in the police budget.
“Are we getting what we’re paying for,” Johnston asked the council. Johnston feels the village has been “discovered as vulnerable.”
The line item the council discussed showed $1,308,546 budgeted for the police department, which is a 5 percent increase over the 2013 budget amount of $1,242,365, a $66,181 increase. Interim clerk Debbie Dileo advised budget numbers are “best guess” figures, which are based on anticipated revenues. Actual expenditures for 2013 are not available, because the year isn’t over yet.
Still the figures indicate the trend and Johnston and Coburn had concerns.
Johnston said the police department needs to be more proactive in putting forth the message. It’s a department to be reckoned with. He said the message needs to be out there: “don’t screw with us.”
Coburn also expressed concern about how police chief, Terry Ward, apparently runs the department. He said the police department’s budget has increased by $200,000 without an increase in the number of police officers.
“Where is the money going,” Coburn asked. “Will it go up each year?”
He called for “frugal spending” and for the mayor to better manage the department heads.
Council president Ron Garver underscored Coburn’s comment regarding department head management. Regarding police officer scheduling Garver has noticed as many as 10 officers on duty during the day, which leaves few officers to cover the other two shifts.
“It’s up to the mayor to run it efficiently,” Garver said. “Sometimes I wonder.”
Garver said after the council’s “many hours” work on the budget, it is presented as balanced. Garver said the total appropriations of $5,923,544 was balanced by $22,106.
Based on the number of hours Garver said the council had to invest to work on the budget, council member Jim King was not happy.
“I’m disappointed in the way it was handled,” King said. “We shouldn’t have to be the bad guys to cut a half a million dollars out of the budget.”
Though she wasn’t there, Mayor Steele sent a message to the council thanking them for their work on the budget.
Some discussion was held about a traffic signal on Frey Avenue at Fellows, which is apparently defective. Council member Randy Otis said an assessment of it revealed a repair estimate of $5,200 “and there could be more wrong with it.”
After council member Sheila Nelson insisted the signal is necessary at that intersection, suggestions included an “on demand” light, which would remain green on the primary street and a change would be induced by a pedestrian button or an auto detector. Also suggested was a signal which would function as a normal traffic signal during the day, but switch to a flashing signal in the evening and early morning hours.
In other business, the council has been invited to place a float and ride thereon in the village’s Christmas in the Park, scheduled for Dec. 13-15. The parade will be held at 6 p.m. with line-up to occur at 5:30 p.m. at the American Legion Hall on East Main Street.
Councilman Coburn said a call has gone out for donations of Christmas lights with which to decorate Garrette Park. The strands used in previous years are defective due to exposure to harsh winter weather.
It was suggested the village take a closer look at its waste removal and recyclable material pickup contract with Waste Management. In question is an apparent discount the village may be eligible for based on the volume of recyclable materials collected.