Finance committee discusses streets and public safety budgets

Stretching into the second week, the City of Watertown 2020 budget discussions led to the finance committee meeting Monday recommending almost $200,000 in new spending.

The committee heard from both public safety departments, the police department and fire department, respectively, as well as from Street Superintendent Randy Franks on the figures for numerous budgets.

The biggest change of the night came for the street department as the committee unanimously approved the purchase of a new tandem-axle dump truck with a plow, wing and sander for $190,000, replacing an aging vehicle.

This approval will cause the projected borrowing for the city, pending any other additional purchases, to rise from Mayor Emily McFarland’s projected $6.4 million to just under $6.6 million. Typically the city would borrow around $2.5 million a year, but due to the borrowing for the library that number for 2020 is much larger, according to McFarland. It was her goal to decrease the typical yearly borrowing for the city this year to something around $2.3 million, but with the approval of the dump truck, that number will be closer to the $2.5 million.

“I didn’t want to have the same borrowing as in years past. I didn’t want to have to borrow for two big purchases and we’re already borrowing for (a new) ambulance,” McFarland said. “I don’t think borrowing for equipment back to back to back is sustainable and I wanted to spread borrowing a bit more. The current strategy gives me pause.”

The meeting began with Police Chief Robert Kaminski presenting his budget as well as the budgets for the crossing guard and dispatch. Although no formal changes were made, Kaminski requested increased funding for maintenance for both contracts for body cameras as well as for squad cars. He also expressed worry about the amount of funding for overtime, after $5,000 was cut in the mayor’s proposal, bringing the portion of the budget to $68,000, due to the difficulty of maintaining a full staff due to injuries and departures.

The police department did receive a few items in the capital projects budget as the purchase of two new police SUVs, totaling $95,000, and two used unmarked squad cars, totaling $36,000, were recommended as proposed in McFarland’s budget.

Fire Chief Kraig Biefeld then presented his budget as well as the budget for emergency government. No changes were made to either budgets though a few capital projects were approved by the mayor in her budget including a new ambulance costing $270,000 and a new siren near Douglas School for emergency government.

Franks then made presentations of the budgets for the municipal building, streets department, streets garages, machinery and equipment, snow and ice control, signs and markings, street lighting and solid waste. The only official change was the addition of the dump truck, but Franks did voice his concern over the funding for repairs as the street vehicles have some wear and the cost for other items, such as street lights, may tighten the budget.

Also on the table was the was the $25,000 request in the capital projects budget for a new electronic gate to for the city’s quarry to increase the department’s efficiency and safety. However, the committee decided to table the request at this time.

The committee met again on Tuesday night with presentations given by airport manager Krys Brown, library director Peg Checkai and water systems manager Pete Hartz on water and wastewater.

The committee will hold its final official budget meeting on Wednesday, with a possible meeting for Thursday, if needed.

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