GREG LOWER

Chanute city commissioners reviewed budget proposals from the police and fire departments and the water and sewer department during a workshop Monday evening.

It was the second of five meetings to prepare the 2022 budget. Commissioners will meet June 22 to continue discussion and again July 6 for a scheduled four-hour tour of facilities.

Both the police and fire departments are seeking budget increases. Part of the increase for the fire department is due to payments on the latest truck, which the department will carry for 10 years.

Fire Chief Kevin Jones said officials need to start the conversation now for the purchase of the next fire department vehicle. The commission likely will not include it in the 2022 budget, but could in 2023.

Jones said the next replacement would take the place of a 2002 Freightliner fire engine. Once ordered, it would take 12 to 14 months before the city receives the truck. Delaying replacement could mean an increase of 3 to 10 percent each year.

City Manager Todd Newman said equipment upgrades are something every department is trying to do. He said equipment is 20 to 30 years old and much is coming due for replacement at the same time, while officials are trying to spread upgrades over a longer schedule.

During discussion of the water and sewer department, officials said there is equipment that is now in its 39th year of a 30-year lifespan.

Both the police and fire departments also seek increases from personnel cost. Jones said two of his firefighters retire this month and he has had 14 applicants, a decrease in potential hires, but in line with other departments across the country.

The police department is also short-handed by about four officers and having difficulty getting applicants.

“Society makes it very difficult to be in that profession right now,” Assistant City Manager Ryan Follmer said. 

Police Chief Raymond Hale, who was not at Monday’s meeting, intends to retire at the end of July and the city plans to hire someone from outside the department.

Because the police department is having difficulty finding applicants, officers have put in a lot of overtime hours. Commissioners asked whether the proposed budget took additional hires into account.

Finance Director Cory Kepley said the budget is based on actual expenses during the past three years, while the department has been short-handed. But he said hiring additional officers would transfer the overtime expense to the cost of regular hours.

Commissioners will look at utility rates at their July 6 meeting following the city tour. Follmer said cost increases are because of materials. Chanute has 70 miles of water line.

City officials are looking at the pending need for a new wastewater treatment plant and have focused on reducing the infiltration and inflow of storm-water into the sewer system. The 2022 budget proposes $300,000 for I and I transfer.

Officials once hoped that reducing the I and I would decrease the capacity needed and cut the construction cost to less than $10 million. But they said Monday that a new wastewater treatment plant will probably be more than $14 million.

 

 

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