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Demopolis council approve budget, ambulance lease

The Demopolis City Council on Monday approved a proposed FY19 budget as well as the purchase of an ambulance for the city’s Department of Public Safety.

The coming year’s budget was passed unanimously, forecasting over $10.5 million in revenue and $9.51 in expenses. The budget calls for just over $8 million to be taken in from tax sources as well as $1.2 million from business license fees.

The city’s largest expense falls under the category of “General Government,” forecasted at $2.29 million. In the area of public safety, $1.9 million is budgeted for the police department and $1.68 million for the fire department. Public Works is budgeted at $1.07 million.

The city is also budgeting for $782,000 for debt service as well as $670,000 for grant project matches.

The council also voted by 5-1 vote a lease purchase of an ambulance at a cost of about $169,000.

Public Safety Director Tommie Reese said the ambulance will provide residents with more timely ambulance response and will preserve fire vehicles currently being used for medical calls.

“We are not trying to put Amstar out of business,” Reese said. “If they can’t get (to a call) in 30 minutes, that’s too long. If we can get a patient to the hospital quicker it may save a life.”

Reese added that running large fire vehicles for medical calls adds expensive wear-and-tear. “The cost for running those trucks is enormous.”

The council approved a five-year lease purchase with payments beginning in March 2019.

The “no” vote came from Councilman Bill Meador who said he was not against a city ambulance, but felt the city needed more planning.

“I don’t think we have all the parameters covered in how this is going to work,” Meador said. “I do see the need, just don’t think we are quite ready.”

All other councilmen voted in approval, along with Mayor John Laney.

Other items discussed by the council included:

• Councilman Charles Jones, who introduced a discussion on a 1-cent sales tax increase at the previous meeting, said he is working on a revisions to a “working” resolution document.

• following a public hearing, the council voted to rezone property at 880 Hwy. 80 E from B3 to B4, which will allow for storage buildings.

• approving an increase from $20,000 to $24,000 for the purchase of a vehicle for the fire department.

• approving a resolution allowing for the Alabama Department of Transportation to move forward with work at both the east and west Jackson Street bridges.

• approving a structure at 703 E. Washington as a public nuisance and a bid of $4,500 from the city’s public works department to conduct demolition on the property.

• Latoya Witherspoon of Marengo County Community in Action requested $2,000 from the city to help the group in its efforts to combat drug and alcohol abuse. No action was taken.

• Annie Robertson announced there would be a voter education seminar on Monday, Oct. 8, at the Theo Ratliff Center. Gubernatorial candidate Walt Maddox (D) will attend and an invitation was extended to Governor Kay Ivey.

• Dana McCants voiced concerns in the area of public spending, stating to the mayor, “our money has not been watched at all.” He specifically pointed to a sidewalk project planned for the area of Westside Elementary School.

The next city council meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 4, 5:15 p.m., at Rooster Hall.

(This article originally appeared in the Saturday, September 22 issue of the Demopolis Times.)