City seeks fire, police funds
Asks council for bonds and ARP dollars
WARREN — Administration officials are asking city council to approve allowing Auditor Vince Flask to seek bonds that could range between 3.85 percent and 4.35 percent to pay for two firetrucks, improvements on buildings at the City Hall campus and various parking lot improvements throughout the city.
Discussions were held Thursday during a city council finance committee meeting. The vote to allow Flask to seek the bonds will take place during council’s next meeting on Wednesday.
The city is looking to finance approximately $4 million for these projects. However, the total repayment cost of the seven-year bond sale could range from about $5.1 million to $5.3 million, depending on the percentage the city can obtain when Flask obtains the bonds.
Earlier this year, fire Chief Ken Nussle told council members the department needs to replace a fully equipped ladder truck at a projected cost of $1.7 million and a fully equipped rescue vehicle that has a projected cost of $700,000.
Even if council approves the selling of the bonds to purchase the vehicles, it will take 24 to 30 months to be built and delivered to the city, according to Nussle’s projections.
Councilman Ken MacPherson, D-at Large, questioned if the trucks could be purchased using general fund money or American Rescue Plan money, instead of using bond money.
MacPherson expressed concern the city would be paying interest on vehicles it will not have for up to 30 months, if they are purchased using bond money.
He questioned if ARP money council already approved for the purchase of snow plows, for example, could be used to pay for the fire trucks. Money for the snow plows could be gotten from the bond money or elsewhere. Flask said he would research how the bond money could be used.
In addition to the trucks, the bond will be used to complete interior renovations of buildings on the city hall campus, including the main building, the law office and the IT buildings. An estimated $880,818 is being requested, which includes extensive plumbing and electrical upgrades, plastering, painting, replacement of carpets and other improvements.
A portion of the bond package will be used to resurface parking lots of government buildings, including the Government Services Building on Market Street, fire station No. 6, Packard Music Hall, The Vans Building and Burbank building.
POLICE AND FIRE COMMITTEE
During a council police and fire committee meeting, police Chief Eric Merkel gave a presentation that reduced the department’s original $3.3 million American Rescue Plan fund request to $2 million.
Most of the reduction from the original police ARP request will come from the elimination of purchasing 25 cameras and the funding of Police Athletic League programs.
Councilwoman Cheryl Saffold, D-6th Ward, said she would be willing to use some of the ARP funds set aside for individual council members to help finance the PAL program, if the department provides the personnel to operate it.
Merkel said they are looking to obtain the cameras from unspecified city funds.
In the department’s original request, Merkel sought 10 new police cruisers; a street crimes van; two unmarked vehicles; computer equipment; cell-site mapping hardware; crime-mapping programs; a cellebrite Premium program that will allow the department to download information from cellphones; equipment for its street crimes unit; 75 handguns and holsters; 25 cameras that can be placed around the city; four drone systems; 50 bulletproof vests and 15 heavy vests; and a Citizen Awareness Academy and Police Athletic League programs.
Saffold and MacPherson asked numerous questions regarding the need for the department to purchase 10 new cruisers. Saffold said there have been times she has passed the police parking lot and saw up to 15 police vehicles sitting there.
Merkel said the department has 32 vehicles. Eight of the vehicles are older Ford Tauruses with more than 120,000 miles on them that need to be replaced.
MacPherson questioned why they need 10 vehicles using ARP funds and why they can’t use police forfeiture funds for some vehicles, funds from the city-owned impound lot for others and funds from the general fund for the rest.
It was noted the new vehicles would get the department out of its current crisis situation for vehicles and then the department will be able to systematically replace vehicles using those other resources.
In June, city council approved a request by police to use $250,000 in ARP funds to purchase a data conversion system that will assist officers in report writing, case management investigations, crime analysis and maintaining property and evidence records.
That system was part of the department’s original ARP request.
The city already has spent or budgeted more than $7.5 million of the more than $28 million it received from the federal government.
Council voted to give each member the authority on how to spend up to $500,000 of the ARP funds. Councilman Gary Steinbeck already has allocated $311,500 of his funds and Saffold has authorized the city to use $63,100 of the $500,000 allocated to her.