Financial-recovery plan calls for volunteer fire department

By Jeanne Starmack


A new financial-recovery plan would call for an all-volunteer fire department and would ask voters for 5 mills in new taxes for the general fund.

Finance Director Sherman Miles said Monday that he, the council and the mayor all worked on the plan. Council is expected to vote on it Wednesday. It is to be presented to a state commission that oversees the city’s finances Monday.

The commission oversees the city because it is in fiscal emergency. The plan must include a five-year forecast that shows black ink, rather than red.

Miles said the crossover to an all-volunteer fire department would occur gradually, with firefighters now on staff being allowed to keep their jobs until retirement. The fire chief’s position would still be full time.

Miles said the move would help to lower home-owners’ insurance rates. Rates are affected by the city’s Insurance Services Office rating, which is dropping in June from a 6 to a 10 on a scale of one to 10. The ISO sent the city a letter in January indicating the rating will drop because the city can’t assure four firefighters at a fire scene.

If the recovery plan passes, the city will ask voters in November for 5 mills in new taxes. Of that, 31/2 mills would generate $245,000 for the general fund, and 1.5 mills would generate $105,000 for street paving.

The plan also includes efforts to collect delinquent income tax and boost revenue in the water department by charging according to meter size and buying transmitters to detect theft.

It calls for renegotiating a garbage contract and leasing a catch basin-street sweeper instead of subcontracting with two companies to do the work. It calls for replacing full-time positions with part-time where possible for employees who leave after July 1.

The plan also calls for assessing landlords a registration fee of $100 per unit per year.

It calls for a traffic-camera program to increase money collected from speeders, and assesses grass-cutting fees when the city has to step in and mow a property.

The city will explore options to reduce health-care benefits. I

f the levy fails in November, the city will assess $3 to $4 a month on each water bill to pay for street lights. That fee will generate $120,000 a year.

The plan is designed to increase the general fund by $208,000 this year and by $571,000 starting in 2011.

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