WMFD requests budget amendment for new vehicles
Chief asks approval for expenditures omitted from 2018 bottom line
When finalizing the 2018 budget, some needs of the West Memphis Fire Department slipped through the cracks. To remedy that, Fire Commission chairman City Councilman Tracy Catt brought the omission to the commission’s attention during the board’s February meeting.
West Memphis Fire Chief Wayne Gately had presented the needs to the commission — a request for two new Tahoes for fire marshals and for an ambulance — last year ahead of the budget process. The request was, in turn, approved by the commission for budget consideration.
Gately noticed the request for new equipment wasn’t in his capital outlay line at the budget hearing in January. He asked for the new equipment to be included and was promised the fix.
However, the change was never made and the department still needed the replacement vehicles this year.
Catt told him a budget amendment was needed to fix the oversight and allow for expenditures.
“During the budget meetings, we did not approve a capital outlay for the fire department,” said Catt.
“The ambulance and vehicles we talked about haven’t been budgeted. So, we’ll probably be coming back to you to ask for reconsideration.”
Catt indicted the $250,000 request for the three vehicles was overlooked as City Treasurer Frank Martin produced the final budget.
“So, those items didn’t get in there?” asked Councilwoman Ramona Taylor.
“The Fire Department has zero in capital outlay,” confirmed Gately.
“When Frank entered everything into the system originally he saw a deficit budget,” said Catt. “We have cash. That’s not a problem. But this budget was balanced to the penny.
He turned in a balanced budget.”
Special equipment orders take a long time for vendors to produce. The ambulance has a nine-month lead time and Catt further recommended
an evaluation to overhaul city ambulances to ensure smooth emergency medical response until the new ambulance ar- rived.
“We have two older Fords that are not as reliable as the newer Dodge,” noted Catt, “and the ambulance is a nine month process. In my opinion we need to look at completely refurbishing the engine/drive train to make sure they can be reliable for another year until the new ambulance can get here.”
Catt said the budget commission would resubmit the fund request for the ambulance and staff vehicles during the first quarter.
Catt also asked city council members at the meeting for their 2018 wish list for the fire department. Councilman Marco McClendon wanted a new fires station in the Mid-America Industrial Park area. Chief Gately explained that an unmanned station with a reserve vehicle would improve the fire department rating and drive insurance costs down for the big businesses north of Interstate 40. The aldermen thought the lower costs would make the area more attractive for prospective businesses.
“It hasn’t been budgeted,” said Catt. “That would bring the northern most part of the industrial park from a 9 rating down to a 1.”
Taylor looked forward to an updated plan for the city and wanted the fire department to speak up for the additional station as part of the plan development.
“It would be good to have this addressed in the new comprehensive plan,” said Taylor. “It could be part of one of the new super site designation. I think it would be nice to have that as part of the plan.”
“I would think the state and Crittenden County economic development would be helping us with that because the Mid-America Industrial Park development impacts the county,” said McClendon. “It would be like good advertising to get more business in here.”
The fire department reported some progress on its own wish list and was on the hunt pursuing grants.
“We’ve applied for a $550,000 grant for an new pumper truck,” said Assistant Chief Jones. “The pumper truck at station 4 needs replacing.”
The grant money is available to replace fire tucks with cabs that are not completely enclosed for the crew. The department still
hold one in reserve.
“The fire truck grant is a matching grant,” said Gately. “We’d have to come up with $55,000 for the 10 percent match on a $550,000 pumper truck.”
“I’ve applied for a micro grant of $25,000 for turnout gear,” added Jones. “I am working on a $10,000 grant for fire prevention safety.”
By John Rech