The Herald Bulletin

December 13, 2013

Council approves new vehicle requests

Concerns raised over staffing levels

By Ken de la Bastide
The Herald Bulletin

---- — ANDERSON – After a lengthy discussion, the Anderson Common Council approved the transfer of funds to purchase new police vehicles and a new ambulance.

Following a caucus Thursday by the Democrat members of the council, it appeared the requests to transfer $430,000 in the police and fire department budgets would be tabled for several months.

But after Jason Fenwick, Anderson City Controller, assured council members that the funding was available in 2014 to prevent layoffs in the two departments, the transfer request was approved.

Council President David Eicks asked Fenwick about whether the 2014 city budget would revert back to the 2013 amount because of a missed Indiana Department of Local Government Finance public hearing meeting.

“I feel the city needs the ambulances,” he said. “But if we revert back to the 2013 budget, will there be the funding for 114 firefighters?”

Eicks suggested the funding request be tabled until a decision on the 2014 budget is finalized by the state.

“We need a guarantee about staffing,” he said. “The staffing levels are not maintained in the budget.”

Fenwick said a decision may not be known until the end of March.

“We will have available funds,” he said. “There will be no impact on manpower. We’re not anticipating layoffs of city employees.”

Fenwick said the police department budget for 2014 has the funding to maintain the staffing levels and the fire department will need an additional appropriation for next year.

On Friday, Fenwick said the 2013 approved general fund budget is $30.4 million and the requested 2014 budget is $31.4 million.

Brent Holland, deputy chief with the Anderson Fire Department, explained the department has six ambulances, three for primary duty and three back-ups.

“They’re high mileage and constantly breaking down,” he said. “There have been times when the city only had one ambulance in service covering the entire city because the other five were being repaired.

Holland said the city used to purchase a new ambulance on an annual practice, but that stopped in 2009.

“This is an emergency situation,” he said. “We can’t wait any longer and put city in jeopardy.”

Holland said the department is purchasing a demo ambulance that has low mileage and is available at a good price. He said it takes six months to have a new ambulance delivered.

The request was initially tabled by the council, but following the decision on the purchase of 10 patrol cars for the police department, the fire department transfer was approved.

Jim Rhodes with APD said the department has $350,000 budgeted for salaries available for the purchase of the patrol cars from savings in the department.

He said two officers resigned and one retired during the year, making the funding available. Rhodes said the department is in the process of hiring new officers, which he described as a lengthy process.

“We have some cars purchased in 1998,” Rhodes said. "Some of the cars were assigned to be decommissioned, but were brought back into service.”

The 10 vehicles that are being replaced cost an average of $3,000 to maintain as compared to an average maintenance cost of $1,900 for other department vehicles, he said.

“We don’t anticipate additional funds in 2014 as was available this year,” Rhodes said.

The department is planning to purchase 2012 model cars at a $2,000 discount from a Fort Wayne Chevrolet dealership that had the same bid.

Follow Ken de la Bastide at ken.delabastide@heraldbulletin.com, or call 640-4863.