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— “It’s usually us that have to twist these guys’ arms to even take an increase in pay,” Bob Cottingham, councilman, said, regarding Pea Ridge Fire Department Chief Frank Rizzio’s request for new equipment.

At the City Council’s committee of the whole meeting Monday afternoon, Rizzio was one of five department heads to present a proposed 2009 budget to the Pea Ridge City Council.

“What we really need is new turnout gear — firefighting garments. We need 25-26 sets, fitted to the guys,” Rizzio said.

Some of the sets currently used are several years old. The department estimates $1,625 per set, setting the total amount needed at about $42,000.

“That’s health and safety, that should be our top priority,” Nadine Teglmeier, councilwoman said, while other members agreed to add this issue to the next city council meeting agenda.

Rizzio said he would have the exact quote ready later that afternoon.

The now combined Pea Ridge Fire and Ambulance has 30 total personnel that work on what they call casual labor. No employee works full time and they earn very little.

“There’s a culture in volunteer fire service that accepts that, it’s just what we do,” Rizzio said.

There are currently emergency medical technicians in training and the November shifts are now filled.

“Working to a full-time department is going to take a period of years,” Mayor Jackie Crabtree said.

But Rizzio said at this time, Pea Ridge doesn’t really have the call volume needed to support a fulltime department.

Other department heads to speak at the meeting were Pea Ridge treasurer Sandy Button, Police Chief Tim Ledbetter, Water/Wastewater Superintendent Ken Hayes and Street Superintendent Larry Majors.

Button covered the City General fund, including the rental of city property by Pea Ridge Pawn Shop.

“Are we in the rental business now?” asked John Cody, councilman.

The pawn shop is located in the same building as the new Police Department, a building that is owned by the city.

“We don’t have a need for it at this time,” said Button, pointing out they have a month-to-month lease and can take back that portion of the building when the need arises. The monthly payment from the pawn shop is part of the rental income on the budget, along with the community room located at the Emergency Services building, which houses the fire and ambulance departments and out of which the police department just moved.

Property tax income is expected to jump this year, as homeowners are coming into the time when those taxes are due, having had leeway since the downfall of the economy. Even houses sitting empty will still bring income.

Other city general items discussed were:

• Salaries and merit awards

• Street lights in the new subdivisions

• Legal fees

• Disposal service

In the proposed Pea Ridge Library budget, no major changes were discussed. The City Park budget will be adjusted in 2010, since funds will no longer be allocated from Parks Commission funds for the Mule Jump.

In the report for the Pea Ridge Police Department, Chief Tim Ledbetter said it has been close to one year since the K-9 unit has been in place. The dog was brought in at Officer Marler’s expense, but has proved to be a worthy expense and will now be covered under the police budget. The monies allotted will be for food, veterinary bills, training, etc.

Ledbetter reported that utilities in the new building will be more efficient than before. Regarding equipment needs that may arise, Ledbetter said “We’ll make do with what we have.”

Water/Wastewater Superintendent Ken Hayes pointed out that some training needed by Water Department employees is not offered in this area, justifying the need for the “operator licensure/schools” line item in the budget.

“Five years ago, things were very much combined with the water and sewer departments,” Hayes said, giving two separate reports now for the two departments.

“In Pea Ridge we’ve had to react to the growth but were in pretty good shape for a smaller municipality. We’re making a lot of progress,” Hayes said.

Hayes provided water rates for towns all over northwest Arkansas, showing the progress Pea Ridge is making in providing affordable water to its residents.

“As long as I’ve been in office, we’ve never gone and raised rates just to raise rates,” Crabtree said.

Street Superintendent Larry Majors reported on the Pea Ridge Street Department, noting the line item in his budget for equipment rentals and equipment maintenance.

“If it’s not breaking down, it means you’re not using it,” he said.

They also discussed the idea of taking of more part time help for City Park maintenance.

This was a working meeting, the proposed budget will be reviewed and presented to City Council at the next regular meeting, Tuesday, Nov. 17, for approval.

News, Pages 1 on 11/04/2009

Print Headline: Department heads talk money

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