Cortland levies would benefit fire, police
CORTLAND — Two new levies on the November ballot would lend a helping hand to the city fire and police departments.
The fire levy, like the police levy, is a 1.5-mill, continuing additional levy to provide and maintain protection.
The only difference, however, is the fire levy is a capital improvement levy.
A capital improvement levy is essentially an expenditure fund, meaning that only certain items can be purchased, according to fire Chief David Rea. Some of those items include fire station renovations, possibly a new fire station, new equipment and, most importantly, a new firetruck.
“We have a 27-year-old firetruck that needs replaced. We’ve been replacing items on the truck as we go, but it’s becoming expensive,” Rea said.
The station, including the kitchen area, bathroom, training area, dayroom and offices, were all built in 1949. In 1986 renovations were made, but only to build space for one full-time employee. The station now houses four full-time employees.
“This was never intended to house ful-time staff when it was designed,” Rea said. “We had to find room for these guys to sleep and have down time before the next call.”
A big issue Rea sees with the current station is that there is only one shower.
“With the modern fires we are fighting today, they are putting out tons and tons of carcinogens. It gets in their gear and on their skin which can absorb into their bloodstream. They need to shower as soon as they return to the station but there is only one shower for them to share. One guy can sit for two hours with those carcinogens on their skin,” Rea said.
Among other things, all the equipment such as helmets, boots, gloves, pants and fire hoses all have a lifespan of 10 years, Rea said. Even if a piece of equipment is brand new or a hose still passes every test, 10 years is the limit set by the National Fire Protection Association. All of these items fall under the umbrella of capital improvement items.
“There’s a lot of things people don’t know we have to do just to keep up with NFPA and current medical standards,” Rea said.
Police Chief David Morris explained in a letter what what the police funds would be used for. Most important to Morris is the hiring of at least one more full-time officer.
“For years, law enforcement as a whole, including Cortland, relied on volunteer, reserve officers and part-time officers to supplement full-time staff,” he wrote.
At the moment, the department has 10 full time officers. At least two days per week the department relies on various volunteer, reserve or part-time officers to fill the void.
According to Morris, this is a huge problem considering the neighboring communities. In the letter, Morris drew comparisons to similar-sized area communities and stated those departments staff between 12 to 20 ful-time officers.
The additional money would then be used to secure updated police cruisers and equipment.
Just last year, the department updated the communication system to the Multi-Agency Radio Communications System which, according to Morris, drastically improved the radio traffic.
“Unfortunately the move to MARCS came at a steep price. Our mobile and portable radios went from $350 per radio to almost $3,000 per radio,” Morris said.
The department uses high definition dash cameras and other equipment features to improve everyone’s safety.
“All of the personnel, equipment and training improvements made, or proposed, to allow our agency to move forward cost money,” Morris said. “We provide good service, but we need the support of the community.”
A third levy on the ballot is a 1.9-mill renewal for operating expenses. “The taxpayers have already been paying this and it won’t cost more than they are already paying,” Mayor Deidre Petrosky said.
The current levy ends in 2021. According to legistlation from the city, the funds will continue to provide for asphalt resurfacing, maintenance of systems within the city and maintenance of Willow and Pear parks.
Also on the ballot are proposed charter amendments. One of the proposed new amendments would allow the planning, zoning and building commission to establish its own rules of operation.
At the moment, the commission meets monthly. As of late, there have been little to no items on the agenda, therefore meetings are not needed. The proposed amendment would give the commission the opportunity to set its own schedule at the annual reorganization meeting in January.
The second proposal would change how future elections would proceed. Essentially, the municipal election and the general election would be held at the same time, in the fall of odd numbered years.