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Crittenden budget discussion gets heated

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By Camille McClanahan

It got “hot” in Crittenden after Mayor Gayle Cayton proposed decreasing the fire department’s budget in the 2010-2011 budget.

Cayton presented the budget to the council on May 3. It called for decreasing the fire department’s portion but allocating more money for police.

If approved, the budget would decrease the amount paid to the fire department by $5,000 and increase the amount paid to the Grant County Sheriff’s office by $8,000.

“You’re going to decrease the fire department budget, but you’re going to increase the sheriff’s department by 5.2 percent?” Councilman Brian Barkley asked Cayton.

According to Cayton, an independent audit performed last year showed that the fire department had sufficient operating funds and some surplus.

“A volunteer fire department is a nonprofit organization,” Cayton said.

“If something happens to one of my trucks, if we don’t have the money, who’s going to find it?” Dave Owens, fire department chief asked.

Cayton, who ends his term Dec. 31, told Owens the city had always supported the fire department and he thought they would help out if trucks needed major repair; however, he conceded, “I’m not going to be here.”

“My main concern with the city cutting us is that we can’t provide the citizens with the service they expect from us and provide the equipment for our safety,” Owens said. “The city talks about us having surplus funds; we try to keep funds in case of a break down. A new pump for one of these trucks runs about $45,000, a new tire about $500, and if we have to send (equipment) off to be worked on, it’s unreal. It cost around $1,500 just to suit up one firefighter,” Owens said.

Owens said many people new to Crittenden make an assumption the fire department is staffed by paid members, when in reality the department is staffed completely by volunteers.

“I have the same responsibility as Williamstown and Dry Ridge fire chiefs, except they get a pay check for their work and until we receive the proper funds, our citizens will never get the service they deserve and expect from their tax money,” he said.

Cayton said he was approached by Sheriff Chuck Dills, who asked for “input” in the city’s next budget. Cayton said he invited Dills to discuss the departments’ needs.

Judge-Executive Darrell Link told Cayton that the fiscal court was going to add $5,000 to the $20,000 that they budget yearly for the city’s fire department.

The city currently pays $173,000 to the sheriff’s department. The increase was requested to cover the “manpower” needed for 24/7 patrol,” Cayton said.

The city will give a final reading of next year’s budget at their June 1 meeting.

Discussion at the June meeting will also center on increasing salaries for city employees.

“It’s a big issue on the personnel policy that we are going to be voting on at the June meeting,” Cayton said. “It’s an increase of salary (for the clerk and maintenance worker) by virtue of the Consumer Price Index. ”