Northwood City Council, in a special meeting on Wednesday, unanimously approved the city’s 2012 budget.
A special meeting had been called after council was unable to pass the budget on Dec. 15.
Some on council were opposed to Mayor Stoner’s plans to beef up the city’s BLS (Basic Life Support) services with capital replacement funds, which were reallocated into the general fund last year to reduce the strain on the budget due to reduced income tax revenue. The ordinance to amend the city’s taxation code last year had eliminated a 10 percent income tax disbursement into the capital replacement fund and reallocated it into the general fund. Before the ordinance, the city had disbursed 70 percent of income taxes into the general fund, 20 percent into the capital improvements fund, and 10 percent into the capital replacement fund. After the ordinance, 80 percent of the income tax was disbursed into the general fund, and 20 percent into the capital improvements fund.
With a steady increase in income tax revenue in 2011, Council had wanted to change the income tax disbursement to its original formula, with 10 percent going to capital replacement.
Stoner had planned to use some of those funds for 24/7 BLS.
Councilmen Dean Edwards, Ed Schimmel and Dave Gallaher at the Dec. 15 meeting were opposed to the continued reallocation of capital replacement funds as part of the budget.
At Wednesday’s council meeting, a compromise proposed by Edwards was worked out as a way to get council to pass next year’s budget. The 2012 budget still calls for funding for BLS. It also reallocates 72 percent of the income tax into the general fund, 20 percent into the capital improvements fund, and 8 percent into the capital replacement fund. Starting Jan. 1, 2013, the income tax disbursement into all three funds will revert to 70 percent for the general fund, 20 percent for capital improvements fund, and 10 percent for the capital replacement fund.
“Starting Jan. 1, the city will be 24/7 BLS,” said Stoner after the meeting. “We persevered. We made it. Everybody in the city should send up a collective cheer because it’s going to make it safer for everybody. It’s definitely a step forward.”
The dedicated BLS will be focused at Fire Station No. 2 on Wales Road because most of the calls come from that side of the city, according to Stoner.
“For the first, initial call to the fire station, there will be two people on hand to respond,” explained Stoner. “If we get 10 calls at once, then there’s going to be a problem. That’s when you rely on mutual aid.”
Stoner said he spoke with Fire Chief Joel Whitmore to discuss the number of shifts at the station for full-time BLS.
“We were going to do 12-hour shifts. But Joel thinks it will be easier to staff if we do 24-hour shifts,” said Stoner. “It doesn’t really matter to me provided there’s no impact on the budget.”
Currently, the city has two people who are at least EMTs providing BLS weekdays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
It will cost the city an additional $139,222 annually, and $249,844 in total, to provide round the clock BLS services.
Death caused change
The boosted coverage was prompted by an incident that was first reported in The Press earlier this year in which a resident called 9-1-1 three times on March 3 for her husband who was having breathing problems. Tim Mix, 67, of Parc Rue, had stopped breathing by the time help arrived 28 minutes later from a Northwood rescue squad manned by an EMT. Medic 50, a rescue squad staffed by paramedics in Lake Township, which has a mutual aid agreement with Northwood, transported Mix to Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center, where he was removed from life support two days later. He had suffered brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen, according to his widow, Ellen. She has filed a lawsuit against city officials.
After the incident, the city reinstated two firefighter/EMTs to provide BLS from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., a shift that had been cut as a result of the recession.
Meanwhile, Stoner said after the meeting that he took issue to comments made by Gallaher in a story that appeared in The Press in the Dec. 26 issue regarding Gallaher’s opposition to the budget at the Dec. 15 meeting. Gallaher had said in the article that the city needs capital replacement funds to finance infrastructure projects, such as providing the local share of the railroad overpass project on Wales Road. “We still have a responsibility to do that,” he said.
But Stoner said the city, for the last several years, has already earmarked its share of the multi-million dollar overpass project.
Bids recently came in under the $14 million estimated cost of the project, according to Stoner.
“The bids were a little over $11 million, which is not bad,” said Stoner.
The city was required to pay a 5 percent local share of the project, or about $900,000.
“Now that the bids are under the estimated cost, our share is about $550,000. We already have the $900,000 saved. That money has been put away for that project,” he said.
Gallaher said last week that costs could go up during construction of the project.
“The bids did come under. That doesn’t mean our share has gone down. I don’t know that we’re going to save money on it. We haven’t gotten our bill yet from the state,” said Gallaher. “Until I get something in writing from the state confirming what it will cost the city, and we send them money and they cash the check, then I’ll feel better about it.”
Once construction of the project starts, change orders could add to the final cost, agreed Stoner. But for now, he said, funding is in place.
“We should be fine,” he said.