Codes, police spending under council review

The city’s second budget work session for City Council Wednesday looked at proposed police, fire and codes departments budgets and also included a rallying cry in the city’s war on heroin.

City Council President Bill Hall said Wednesday that he plans to introduce an updated salary structure for city codes department to bolster it so that it doesn’t remain an entry-level position and instead becomes one to which a prospective employee would aspire as a career.

Hall’s comments were among the highlights of the session of the $21.8 million budget that doesn’t include a real estate tax increase.

Hall said the additional codes employees could help in the war on heroin. He noted he’s heard others speak about a department that is overwhelmed with calls about abandoned vehicles and doing its best to reduce blighted properties and inspect rental buildings.

He said it would be beneficial to add employees as the city begins to enforce the rental ordinance requiring landlords and owners of rental properties to register with the department.

Codes Administrator Joe Gerardi presented a proposed $828,595 budget.

He said three new codes enforcement officers began working in mid-August and continue their jobs and training, and two more would be requested in the proposed budget.

Councilman N. Clifford “Skip” Smith, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, said the police records-management system has a module for codes and interaction will be possible. He said the next step would be to get the system connected with the fire department and that process already has begun.

City Police Chief Gregory A. Foresman read his department’s proposed $8.1 million budget and was peppered with questions about overtime reimbursement for officers who are called to driving while under the influence roving patrols and drug task force work.

Councilman Randall J. Allison wanted to know if the department was going to be reimbursed as usual and Councilman Jonathan Williamson asked Foresman about miscellaneous income because the actual reimbursement from overtime for the additional work was $71,500, down from the $100,000 that was budgeted.

Foresman said he anticipated the overtime reimbursement to remain the same but said if there are more officers on drug task forces the overtime reimbursement would increase.

Councilwoman Bonnie Katz noticed the police K-9 maintenance budget of $1,900 and $6,500 for medical expenses. Foresman answered her by saying it was for a new dog that the department anticipated would have a handler and work for the department next year.

Foresman said the department was looking for some donations for medical costs to maintain the dog but it also was a budgeted expense at $6,500.

Councilwoman Liz Miele said there was a reduction in police department vehicle purchase cost.

Foresman said it was a request of Mayor Gabriel J. Campana, with the plan to purchase two cruisers.

City Bureau of Fire Chief C. Dean Heinbach presented a $6.4 million proposed budget, up from the $6.1 million this year. Heinbach said he anticipated replacing two firefighters next year and spending more on vehicle repairs because of the age of the equipment and an interest payment.

The department now has a facility maintenance budget of $25,000.

Williamson said such an account makes sense and he hoped it would be flourish. Allison noted the decrease in contracted services which he complimented the chief on.

Justin Wray, the information technology department director, said he is plodding through an antiquated computer system that had offered little protection from cyber viruses.

Wray wanted to see more put into the budget which is proposed at $124,525, with a salary of $51,500.

Councilman Don Noviello was not present.

The next session of council is 7:30 p.m. Thursday, and it will include the first reading of the proposed budget, with amendments or changes to be made before a vote. The following meeting will be 7:30 p.m. Dec. 19 when the second and final reading of the proposed budget is taken.