Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bellevue Fire Department turns away volunteers

City Council pares down during budget hearings


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

For the next few weeks, the Bellevue City Council will allocate funding for city departments during the upcoming fiscal year. Already it is making some tough choices.

The council voted Thursday, June 14, to cap the number of volunteer firefighters at the Bellevue Fire Department at 15, though the city will budget for two additional volunteers in case of attrition.

The department drew a surge in volunteer firefighters after the council authorized purchase of a new fire station and new fire truck last year.

The move seemed to boost morale and draw volunteers, but now there are too many. Fire Chief Greg Beaver said at the council meeting that he recently had to turn down two applicants.

"I'm tapped out," he said, referring to the City Council's budget for personnel at the Fire Department.

Volunteers are paid for training and for work during emergencies, earning on average about $2,300 per year. At that rate, and with current revenue estimates for the city, council members agreed it can only afford 15 volunteers.

"They said, 'Build it and they will come,' and that has surely happened, but we have to have some limit," said City Council Chair Dave Hattula.

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Mayor Chris Koch said the cap on the number of volunteers would allow the city to cut about $5,000 from the Fire Department budget, money that could be used to begin saving for a patrol car purchase for the Marshal's Office.

The next Bellevue budget hearing will take place on Thursday, June 28, at 6 p.m.

In other Bellevue news:

- Anna Torres was appointed to the Planning and Zoning Commission.

- Scrap asphalt salvaged from the Woodside Boulevard reconstruction project in Hailey will be used to fill potholes in Bellevue.

- Public Works Director Dan Black said the building and grounds portion of the city budget is empty of funds.

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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