Ambulance money went to raises

Published 7:44 pm Friday, September 19, 2008

The Demopolis City Council took the money originally earmarked for the Tombigbee EMS ambulance service in the 2008-09 budget and redistributed it to provide for increases in city employee pay raises and to provide an assistant for the Demopolis Fire Dept., among other items in the budget.

The only problem was: They didn’t let the council’s finance committee in on it.

The two votes against adopting the revised budget came from the two council members who are on that committee, Woody Collins and Jack Cooley, who hadn’t known of the changes until the council meeting Thursday night.

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“(The budget changes) didn’t really come into fruition until (Thursday),” said Demopolis mayor Cecil P. Williamson. “They weren’t finalized until then. They were talked about, but they weren’t finalized.”

Williamson said that she almost suggested during Thursday’s meeting that the council members be given time to look over the budget changes, then call a special session of the City Council before Oct. 1 to approve the budget, but thought that if Collins or Colley wanted more time, they could have asked for that themselves.

“But then, I thought, ‘Nothing’s going to change,’” she said, “so I decided not to suggest it. If they needed more time, they could ask for it.”

The monies used to make additional changes to the 2008-09 budget came from appropriations originally intended for the Tombigbee Emergency Medical Service, had the City of Linden and the Marengo County Commission also approved subsidies for the ambulance service. The other entities did not make appropriations for the ambulance service, so Demopolis did not, either.

“I don’t exactly know what the future is going to be for the ambulance service for the citizens of Demopolis,” said Williamson. “I don’t know what the situation is going to be, but I am sure the future council will take that under advisement and do what they need to do, and the hospital will do what they need to do to make their bottom line. The council will have to take care of their constituents.

“We did make the appropriations for indigent care, but we did not make appropriations for the ambulance service.”

Instead, some of that $184,000 was used to bolster pay raises for full-time city employees from 2 percent to 4 percent and provide for an administrative assistant for the Demopolis Fire Dept.

“I am delighted that the council voted to add a fire administrative assistant,” said Williamson. “It’s not exactly a secretary position. It is somebody who will also be able to do training and do administrative kinds of things, but basically, they will be a training officer, kind of a dual job.

“As Councilman (Thomas) Moore explained (at the meeting), the police department has administrative assistants, the library has an assistant, the court has an assistant, Parks and Recreation has an assistant — I don’t understand why the fire department has never actually had someone to do that. I feel like that will be a positive addition to the fire department.

“I’m glad that we were able to give a 4-percent raise to our employees,” Williamson said, “because with our economy the way it is, we have not added any employees; we’ve worked smarter, not harder. With the rising fuel costs, we have to work harder; therefore, we’re asking more from our employees.

“I’m delighted that we are able to help work with the Museum of History and Archives. I think that will help to make Demopolis a destination. Also, being able to help fund the Marengo County Sports Hall of Fame, that will also make Demopolis a destination. Any time we can do something to help make Demopolis a destination, we are bringing people here.”

The changes made to the budget included $50,000 more for the Arch Street project and supplied $44,500 for paving projecs and $23,000 for the DFD administrative assistant.

The 2008-09 Demopolis budget includes $10.8 million in revenue, with $8.3 million coming from taxes and $1.5 million coming from business licenses.

The budget includes $10.12 million in expenditures, including $2.3 million in general government operations, $1.75 million in fire department expenditures, $1.7 million in police department expenditures, $1.1 million in public works projects.